A Letter from a Person of Quality to His Friend in the Country
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This Session being ended, and the Bill of the Test neer finished at the Committee of the whole House; I can now give you a perfect Account of this STATE MASTERPIECE. It was first hatcht (as almost all the Mischiefs of the World have hitherto been) amongst the Great Church Men, and is a Project of several Years’ standing, but found not Ministers bold enough to go through with it, until these new ones, who wanting a better Bottom to support them, betook themselves wholly to this, which is no small Undertaking if you consider it in its whole Extent.
First, to make a distinct Party from the rest of the Nation of the High Episcopal Man, and the Old Cavalier, who are to swallow the hopes of enjoying all the Power and Office of the Kingdom, being also tempted by the advantage they may receive from overthrowing the Act of Oblivion, and not a little rejoicing to think how valiant they should prove, if they could get any to fight the Old Quarrel over again; Now they are possest of the Arms, Forts, and Ammunition of the Nation.
Next they design to have the Government of the Church Sworne to as Unalterable, and so Tacitely owned to be of Divine Right, which though inconsistent with the Oath of Supremacy; yet the Church Men easily break through all Obligations whatsoever, to attain this Station, the advantage of which, the Prelate of Rome hath sufficiently taught the World.
And to secure all this they resolve to take away the Power, and opportunity of Parliaments to alter anything in Church or State, only leave them as an instrument to raise Money, and to pass such Laws, as the Court, and Church shall have a mind to. The Attempt of any other, how necessary soever, must be no less a Crime than Perjury.
And as the topstone of the whole Fabrique, a pretence shall be taken from the Jealousies they themselves have raised, and a real necessity from the smallness of their Partie to encrease, and keep up a standing Army, and then in due time the Cavalier and Church man, will be made greater fools, but as errant Slaves as the rest of the Nation.
In order to this, The first step was made in the Act for Regulating Corporations, wisely beginning, that in those lesser Governments which they meant afterwards to introduce upon the Government of the Nation, and making them Swear to a Declaration, and belief of such propositions as themselves afterwards upon debate, were enforced to alter, and could not justifie in those words; so that many of the Wealthiest, Worthiest, and Soberest Men, are still kept out of the Magistracy of those places.
The next step was in the Act of the Militia, which went for most of the chiefest Nobility and Gentry, being obliged as Lord-Lieutenants, Deputy-Lieutenants, &c. to Swear to the same Declaration, and Belief, with the addition only of these words In pursuance of such Military Commissions, which makes the Matter rather worse than better. Yet this went down smoothly as an Oath in fashion, a testimony of Loyalty, and none adventuring freely to debate the matter, the humor of the Age like a strong Tide, carries Wise and good Men down before it. This Act is of a piece, for it establisheth a standing Army by a Law, and swears Us into a Military Government.
Immediately after this, Followeth the Act of Uniformity, by which all the Clergy of England are obliged to subscribe, and declare what the Corporations, Nobility, and Gentry, had before Sworn, but with this additional clause of the Militia Act omitted. This the Clergy readily complied with; for you know That sort of Men are taught rather to obey, than understand, and to use that Learning they have, to justify, not to examine what their Superiors command. And yet that Bartholomew day was fatal to our Church, and Religion, in throwing out a very great Number of Worthy, Learned, Pious, and Orthodox Divines, who could not come up to this, and other things in that Act. And it is an Oath upon this occasion worth your knowledg, that so great was the Zeal in carrying on this Church affair, and so blind was the Obedience required, that if you compute the time of the passing this Act, with the time allowed for the Clergy to subscribe the Book of Common Prayer thereby established; you shall plainly find it could not be Printed, and distributed so, as one Man in forty could have seen and read the Book they did so perfectly Assent and Consent to.
But this Matter was not compleat until the Five Mile Act passed at Oxford, wherein they take an opportunity to introduce the Oath in the terms they would have it. This was then strongly opposed by the Lord Treasurer Southampton, Lord Wharton, Lord Ashley, and others not only in the Concern of those poor Ministers that were so severely handled, but as it was in itself, a most Unlawful, and Unjustifiable Oath; however, the Zeal of that time against All Nonconformists, easily passed the Act.
This Act was seconded the same Sessions at Oxford by another Bill in the House of Commons, to have imposed that Oath on the whole Nation; and the Providence by which it was thrown out, was very remarkable; for Mr. Peregrine Bertie, being newly chosen, was that morning introduced into the House by his Brother the now Earl of Lindsey, and Sir Thomas Osborn now Lord Treasurer, who all Three gave their Votes against that Bill; and the Numbers were so even upon the division, that their three Votes carried the Question against it. But we owe that Right to the Earl of Lindsey, and the Lord Treasurer, as to acknowledg that they have since made ample Satisfaction for whatever offence they gave either the Church or Court in that Vote.
Thus our Church became Triumphant, and continued so for divers years, the dissenting Protestant being the only Enemy, and therefore only persecuted, whilest the Papists remained undisturbed being by the Court thought Loyal, and by our Great Bishops not dangerous, they differing only in Doctrine, and Fundamentalls; but, as to the Government of the Church, that was in their Religion in its highest Exaltation.
This Dominion continued unto them, untill the Lord Clifford, a Man of a daring and ambitious spirit, made his way to the chief Ministery of Affairs by other, and far different measures, and took the opportunity of the War with Holland, the King was then engaged in, to propose the Declaration of Indulgence, that the Dissenters of all sorts, as well Protestants as Papists, might be at rest, and so vast a number of People, not be made desperate, at Home, while the King was engaged with so potent an Enemy abroad. This was no sooner proposed, but the Earl of Shaftsbury a Man as daring but more Able, (though of principles and interest, Diametrically opposite to the other) presently closed with it, and perhaps the opportunity I have had by my conversation with them both, who were Men of diversion, and of free and open Discourses where they had a confidence; may give you more light into both their Designs, and so by consequence the aimes of their Parties, than you will have from any other hand. My Lord Clifford did in express Terms, tell me one day in private Discourse; That the King, if He would be firm to Himself,might settle what Religion He pleased, and carry the Government to what height He would; for if Men were assured in the Liberty of their Conscience, and undisturbed in their Properties, able and upright Judges made in Westminster-Hall to judg the Causes of Meum and Tuum, and if on the Other hand the Fort of Tilbury was finished to bridle the City, the Fort of Plymouth to secure the West, and Armes for 20,000 in each of these, and in Hull for the Northern parts, with some addition, which might be easily and undiscernedly made to the Forces now on foot, there were none that would have either Will, Opportunity, or Power to resist. But he added withall, he was so sincere in the maintenance of Propriety, and Liberty of Conscience, that if he had his Will, though he should introduce a Bishop of Durham, (which was the Instance he then made, that See being then vacant) of another Religion, yet he would not disturb any of the Church beside, but suffer them to dye away, and not let his change (how hasty soever he was in it) overthrow either of those principles, and therefore, desired he might be thought an honest Man as to his part of the Declaration, for he meant it really. The Lord Shaftsbury (with whom I had more freedom) I with great assurance, asked what he meant by the Declaration, for it seemed to me (as I then told him) that it assumed a Power to repeal and suspend all our Laws, to destroy the Church, to overthrow the Protestant Religion, and to tolerate Popery. He replied half angry, That he wondered at my Objection, there being not one of these in the Case: For the King assumed no power of repealing Laws, or suspending them, contrary to the will of his Parliament, or People, and not to argue with me at that time the power of the King’s Supremacy, which was of another nature than that he had in Civills, and had been exercised without exception in this very case by His Father, Grandfather, and Queen Elizabeth, under the Great Seal to Forreign Protestants, become subjects of England, nor to instance in the suspending the Execution of the two Acts of Navigation and Trade, during both this, and the last Dutch War in the same words, and upon the same necessity, and as yet, without Clamour that ever we heard. But, to pass by all that, this is certain, a Government could not be supposed whether Monarchical, or other of any sort, without a standing Supream Executive power, fully enabled to Mitigate, or wholly to suspend the Execution of any penal Law, in the Intervalls of the Legislative power, which when assembled, there was no doubt but wherever there lies a Negative in passing of a Law, there the address or sense known of either of them to the contrary, (as for instance of either of our two Houses of Parliament in England) ought to determine that Indulgence, and restore the Law to its full execution: For without this, the Laws were to no purpose made, if the Prince could annull them at pleasure; and so on the other hand, without a Power always in being of dispensing upon occasion, was to suppose a constitution extreamly imperfect and unpracticable, and to sure those with a Legislative power always in being, is, when considered, no other than a perfect Tyranny. As to the Church, he conceived the Declaration was extreamly their Interest; for the narrow bottom they had placed themselves upon, and the Measures they had proceeded by, so contrary to the Properties, and Liberties of the Nation, must needs in short time, prove fatall to them, whereas this led them into another way to live peaceably with the dissenting and differing Protestants, both at home and abroad, and so by necessary and unavoidable Consequences, to become the Head of them all; For that place is due to the Church of England, being in favor, and of neerest approach to the Most powerful Prince of that Religion, and so always had it in their hands to be the Intercessors and Procurers of the greatest Good and Protection, that party throughout all Christendom, can receive. And thus the Arch Bishop of Canterbury might become, not only Alterius Orbis, but Alterius Religionis Papa, and all this addition of Honor and Power attained without the least loss or diminution of the Church; It not being intended that one living Dignity, or Preferment should be given to Any but those, that were strictly Conformable. As to the Protestant Religion, he told me plainly, It was for the preserving of That and that only that he heartily joined in the Declaration; for besides that, he thought it his Duty to have care in his Place and Station, of those he was convinced, were the People of God and feared Him, though of different persuasions; he also knew nothing else but Liberty, and Indulgence that could possibly (as our case stood) secure the Protestant Religion in England; and he begged me to consider, if the Church of England should attain to a rigid, blind, and undisputed Conformity, and that power of our Church should come into the hands of a Popish Prince, which was not a thing so impossible, or remote, as not to be apprehended, whether in such a case, would not all the Armes and Artillery of the Government of the Church, be turned against the present Religion of it, and should not all good Protestants tremble to think what Bishops such a Prince was like to make, And whom those Bishops would condemn for Hereticks, and that Prince might burn; Whereas if this which is now but a Declaration, might ever by the Experience of it, gain the Advantage of becoming an Established Law, the true Protestant Religion would still be kept up amongst the Cities, Towns, and Trading places, and the Worthiest, and Soberest (if not the greatest) part of the Nobility, and Gentry, and People. As for the toleration of Popery he said, It was a pleasant Objection, since he could confidently say that the Papists had no advantage in the least by the Declaration, that they did not as fully enjoy, and with less noise, by the favor of all the Bishops before. It was the Vivacity of the Lord Keeper, that they were named at all, for the whole advantage was to the dissenting Protestants, which were the only Men disturbed before; and yet he confest to me, that it was his opinion, and always had been, that the Papists ought to have no other pressure laid upon them, but to be made uncapable of Office, Court, or Armes, and to pay so much as might bring them at least to a ballance with the Protestants, for those chargable Offices they are liable unto; and concluded with this that he desired me seriously to weigh, whether Liberty and Propriety were likely to be maintained long in a Countrey like Ours, where Trade is so absolutely necessary to the very being, as well as prosperity of it, and in this Age of the World, if Articles of Faith and Matters of Religion should become the only accessible ways to our Civil Rights.
Thus Sir, You have perhaps a better acount of the Declaration, than you can receive from any other hand, and I could have wisht it a longer continuance, and better Reception than it had: for the Bishops took so great Offence at it, that they gave the Alarum of Popery through the whole Nation, and by their Emissaries the Clergy (who by the Connexture and Subordination of their Government, and 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 Encrease and continuance of Popery, had hitherto received, began to believe the Bishops were in earnest; their Eyes opened, though late, and therefore joined in heartily with them; so that at the next meeting of Parliament, the Protestants’ Interest was run so high, as an Act came up from the Commons to the House of Lords in favor of the dissenting Protestants, and had passed the Royal Assent for the Excluding all Papists from Office, in the Opposition the Lords, but for want of time, Besides, another excellent Act passed of which, the Lord Treasurer Clifford fell, and yet to prevent his ruine, this Sessions had the speedier End. Notwithstanding, the Bishops attained their Ends fully, the Declaration being Cancelled, and the great Seal being broken off from it, The Parliament having passed an Act in favor 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 prosecuting the Nonconformists, but here and there some of the most Confiding Justices, were made use of to try how they could receive the Old Persecution; for as yet the Zeal raised against the Papists, was so great, that the worthiest, and 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. In this posture the Sessions of Parliament that began Oct. 27. 1673. found Matters, which being suddenly broken up, did nothing.
The next Sessions which began Jan 7. following, the Bishops continued their Zeal against Papists, and seemed to carry on in joining with the Countrey Lords, many excellent Votes in order to a Bill, as in particular, That the Princes of the Blood-Royal should all Marry Protestants, and many others, but their favor to dissenting Protestants was gone, and they attempted a Bargain with the Countrey Lords, with whom they then joined not to promote anything of that nature, except the bill for taking away Assent and Consent; and renouncing the Covenant.
This Session was no sooner ended without doing anything, but the whole Clergy were instructed to declare that there was now no more danger of the Papists. The Fanatic (for so they call the dissenting Protestant) is again become the only dangerous Enemy, and the Bishops had found a Scotch Lord, and two new Ministers, or rather Great Officers of England, who were desperate and rash enough, to put their Master’s business upon so narrow and weak a bottom; And that old Covenanter Lauderdale, is become the Patron of the Church, and has his Coach and table filled with Bishops. The Keeper and the Treasurer are of a just size to this affair, for it is a certain rule with the Church Men, to endure (as seldom as they can) in business, Men abler than themselves. But his Grace of Scotland was least to be executed of the Three, for having fallen from Presbitery, Protestant Religion, and all principles of Publick good and private friendship, and become the Slave of Clifford to carry on the Ruine of all that he had professed to support, does now also quit even Clifford’s generous Principles, and betake himself to a sort of Men, that never forgive any Man the having once been in the right; and such Men, who would do the worst of things by the worst of means, enslave their country, and betray them, under the mask of Religion, which they have the publick Pay for, and charge off; so seething the Kid in the Mother’s milk. Our Statesmen and Bishops being now as well agreed, as in Old Laud’s time, on the same principles; with the same passion to attain their end, they in the first place give orders to the Judges in all their Circuits to quicken the Execution of the Laws against Dissenters; a new Declaration is published directly contrary to the former, most in words against the Papists, but in the Sense, and in the close, did fully serve against both, and in the Execution, it was plain who were meant. A Commission besides, comes down directed to the principal Gentlemen of each country, to seize the Estates of both Papists and Fanatics, mentioned in a List annexed, wherein by great misfortune, or skill, the Names of the Papists of best quality and fortune (and so best known) were mistaken, and the Commission rendered ineffectual as to them.
Besides this, the great Ministers of State did in their common publick assure the party, that all the places of Profit, Command, and Trust, should only be given to the old Cavalier; no Man that had served, or been of the contrary Party, should be left in any of them; And a direction is issued to the Great Ministers before mentioned, and Six or seven of the Bishops to meet at Lambeth-House, who were like the Lords of the Articles in Scotland, to prepare their compleat Modell for the ensuing Session of Parliament.
And now comes this memorable Session of Aprill 13.75 then, which never any came with more expectation of the Court, or dread and apprehension of the People; the Officers, Court Lords, and Bishops, were clearly the major Vote in the Lords House, and they assured themselves to have the Commons as much at their dispose when they reckoned the number of the Courtiers, Officers, Pensioners encreased by the addition of the Church and Cavalier party, besides the Address they had made to Men of the best quality there by hopes of Honor, great employment, and such things as would take. In a word, the French King’s Ministers, who are the great Chapmen of the World, did not out-doe ours at this time, and yet the overruling hand of God has blown upon their Politicks, and the Nation is escaped this Session, like a Bird out of the Snare of the Fowler.
In this Sessions the Bishops wholly laid aside their Zeal against Popery. The Committee of the whole House for Religion, which the Country Lords had caused to be set up again by the example of the former Sessions, could hardly get, at any time, a day appointed for their Sitting, and the main thing designed for a Bill voted in the former Session, viz. the marrying our Princes to none but Protestants, was rejected and carried in the Negative by the unanimous Votes of the Bishop’s Bench; for I must acquaint you that our great Prelates were so neer an Infallibility, that they were always found in this Session of one mind in the Lords House; yet the Lay Lords, not understanding from how excellent a Principle this proceeded, commonly called them for that reason the dead Weight, and they really proved so in the following business, for the third day of this Session this Bill of Test was brought into the Lords House by the Earl of Lindsey, Lord High Chamberlain, a person of great quality, but in this imposed upon, and received its first reading and appointment for the second without much opposition; the Country Lords being desirous to observe what weight they put upon it, or how they designed to manage it.
At the second reading, the Lord Keeper, and some other of the Court Lords, recommended the Bill to the House in Set and Elaborate Speeches, the Keeper calling it A moderate Security to the Church and Crown, and that no honest Man could refuse it, and whosoever did, gave great suspicion of Dangerous, and Anti-Monarchicall Principles, the other Lords declaime very much upon the Rebellion of the late Times, the great number of Fanatics, the dangerous principles of rebellion still remaining, carrying the Discourse on as if they meant to trample down the Act of Oblivion, and all those whose Securities depended on it, But the Earl of Shaftsbury and some other of the Country Lords, earnestly prest that the Bill might be laid aside, and that they might not be engaged in the debate of it; or else that that Freedom they should be forced to use in the necessary defence of their Opinion, and the preserving of their Laws, Rights, and Liberties, which this Bill would overthrow, might not be misconstrued: For there are many things that must be spoken upon the debate, both concerning Church and State, that it was well known they had no mind to hear. Notwithstanding, this the great Officers and Bishops called out for the Question of referring the Bill to a Committee; but the Earl of Shaftsbury, a Man of great Abilities, and knowledg in Affairs, and one that, in all these variety of changes of this last Age, was never known to be either bought or frighted out of his publick Principles, at Large opened the mischievous, and ill designs, and consequences of the Bill, which as it was brought in required all Officers of Church and State, and all Members of both Houses of Parliament, to take this Oath following.
|“||I, A. B. do declare that it is not Lawful upon any pretence whatsoever, to take up Armes against the King, and that I do abhorr that Traiterous position of taking Armes by His authority, against His Person, or against those that are commissioned by Him in pursuance of such Commission; And I do swear that I will not at any time endeavor the Alteration of the Government, either in Church or State, so help me God.||”|
The Earl of Shaftsbury and other Lords, spake with such convincing Reason, that all the Lords, who were at liberty from Court-Engagements, resolved to oppose to the uttermost, a Bill of so dangerous consequence; and the debate lasted Five several days before it was committed to a Committee of the whole House, which hardly ever happened to any Bill before. All this and the following debates were managed chiefly by the Lords, whose Names you will find to the following Protestations; the First whereof, was as followeth.
|“||We whose Names are under Written being Peers of this Realm, do according to our Rights and the ancient Usage of Parliaments, declare that the Question having been put whether the Bill (entitled an Act to prevent the danger which may arise from Persons disaffected to the Government) doth so far intrench upon the Priviledges of This House; that it ought therefore to be cast out. It being resolved in the Negative, do humbly conceive that any Bill which imposeth an Oath upon the Peers with a Penalty, as this doth, that upon the refusal of that Oath, They shall be made uncapable of Sitting and Voting in this House, as it is a thing unprecedented in former Times, so is it, in Our humble Opinion, the highest Invasion of the Liberties and Priviledges of the Peerage, that possibly may be, and most destructive of the Freedom, which they ought to enjoy as Members of Parliament, because the priviledges of Sitting and Voting in Parliament is an Honor they have by Birth, and a Right so inherant in them, and inseparable from them, as that nothing can take it away, but what by the Law of the Land, must withal, take away their Lives, and corrupt their Blood; upon which ground we do here enter our Dissent from that Vote, and our Protestation against it
Buckingham, Aylisbury, Howard E. of Berks, Shaftsbury, Bridgwater, Bristol, Mohun, Clarendon, Winchester, Denbigh, Stamford, Gray Roll., Salisbury, Pagitt, Hallifax, Say & Seal, Bedford, Holles, Delamer, Wharton, Dorset, Peter, Eure
The next Protestation was against the Vote of committing the Bill in the words following;
|“||The Question being put whether the Bill Entituled An Act to prevent the Dangers, which may arise from Persons disaffected to the Government, should be commited, It being carried in the Affirmative, and We after several days’ debate, being in no measure Satisfied, but still apprehending that this Bill doth not only subvert the Priviledges, and birthright of the Peers, by imposing an Oath upon them with the penalty of losing their Places in Parliament; but also, as We humbly conceive, stick at the very root of Government; it being necessary to all Government to have freedom of Votes and Debates in those,who have power to alter, and make Laws, and besides, the express words of this Bill, obliging every Man to abjure all Endeavors to alter the Government in the Church; without regard to anything that rules of Prudence in the Government, or Christian compassion to Protestant Dissenters, or the necessity of Affairs at any time, shall or may require. Upon these Considerations, We humbly conceive it to be of dangerous consequence to have any Bill of this Nature, so much as Committed, and do enter our Dissents from that Vote and Protestation against it,||”|
Which Protestation was no sooner entered and subscribed the next day, but the great Officers and Bishops raised a storm against the Lords that had Subscribed it; endeavouring not only some severe proceedings against their persons, if they had found the House would have born it, but also to have taken away the very liberty of Entering Protestations with Reasons; but that was defended with so great Ability, Learning, and Reason by the Lord Holles, that they quitted the Attempt, and the Debate run for some hours either wholly to raze the Protestation out of the Books, or at least some part of it, the Expression of Christian compassion to Protestant Dissenters being that, which gave them most offence; but both these ways were so disagreeable to the honor and priviledg of the House, and the Latter to common Sense and Right, that they despaired of carrying it, and contented themselves with having voted That the Reasons given in the said Protestation, did reflect upon the Honor of the House, and were of dangerous consequence. And I cannot here forbear to mention the Worth, and Honor, of that Noble Lord Holles, suitable to all his former life, that whilst the Debate was at the height, and the Protesting Lords in danger of the Tower; he begged the House to give him leave to put his Name to that Protest, and take his Fortune with those Lords, because his sickness had forced him out of the House the day before, so that not being at the Question, he could not by the rules of the House Sign it. This Vote against those twelve Lords begat the next day this following Protestation signed by 21.
|“||Whereas it is the undoubted priviledg of each Peer in Parliament when a Question is past contrary to his Vote and judgment, to enter his Protestation against it, and that in pursuance thereof, the Bill entituled An Act to prevent the dangers which may arise from persons disaffected to the Government, being conceived by some Lords to be of so dangerous a Nature, as that it was not fit to receive the countenance of a Committment, those Lords did protest against the Commitment of the said Bill, and the House having taken exceptions at some expressions in their Protestation; those Lords who were present at the Debate, did all of them severally and voluntarily declare, That they had not intention to reflect upon any Member, much less upon the whole House, which, as is humbly conceived, was more than in strictness did consist with that absolute freedom of Protesting, which is inseparable from every Member of this House, and was done by them meerly out of their great Respect to the House, and their earnest desire to give all satisfaction concerning themselves, and the clearness of their intentions. Yet the House not satisfied with this their Declaration but proceeding to a Vote, that the reasons given in the said Protestation do reflect upon the honor of the House, and are of dangerous consequence; which is in our humble Opinion, a great discountenancing of the very liberty of Protesting. We whose Names are under Written, conceive ourselves, and the whole House of Peers, extreamly concerned that this great Wound should be given (as we humbly apprehend) to so essential a priviledg of the whole peerage of this Realm, as their liberty of Protesting, do now (according to our unquestionable Right) make use of the same liberty to enter this our Dissent from, and Protestation against the said Vote,
Bucks, Denbigh, Hallifax, Lord Holles, Winton, Howard of Berks, Audley, De la mer, Bedford, Clarendon, Fitzwater, Gray Roll, Dorset, Aylisbury, Eure, Salisbury, Shaftsbury, Wharton, Bridgwater, Say & Seal, Mohun
After this Bill being committed to a Committee of the whole House, the first thing insisted upon by the Lords against the Bill; was, that there ought to be passed some previous Votes to secure the Rights of Peerage, and Priviledg of Parliament before they entered upon the debate, or Amendments of such a Bill as this; and at last two previous Votes were obtained, which I need not here set down, because the next Protestation hath them both in terminis.
|“||Whereas upon the debate on the Bill entituled An Act to prevent the Dangers which may arise from Persons disaffected to the Government, It was ordered by the house of Peers the 30th of Aprill last, that no Oath should be imposed by any Bill, or otherwise, upon the Peers with a penalty in case of Refusal, to lose their Places, or Votes in Parliament, or liberty to debate therein; and whereas also, upon debate of the same, the Bill was ordered the Third of this instant May, that there shall be nothing in this Bill, which shall extend to deprive either of the Houses of Parliament, or any of their Members, of their just ancient Freedom, and priviledg of debating any Matter or business which shall be propounded, or debated in either of the said Houses, or at any Conference or Committee, of both, or either of the said Houses of Parliament, or touching the Repeal, or Alteration of any Old, or preparing any new Laws, or the redressing any publick Grievance; but that the said Members of either of the said Houses, and the assistance of the House of Peers, and every of them, shall have the same freedom of Speech, and all other Priviledges whatsoever, as they had before the making of this Act.
Both which Orders were passed as Previous directions unto the Committee of the whole House, to whom the said Bill was committed, to the end that nothing should remain in the said Bill, which might any ways tend towards the depriving of either of the Houses of Parliament, or any of their Members, of their ancient freedom of Debates, or Votes, or other their priviledges whatsoever. Yet the House being pleased, upon the report from the Committee, to pass a Vote, That all Persons who have, or shall have Right to sit and Vote in either House of Parliament, should be added to the first enacted Clause in the said Bill, whereby an Oath is to be imposed upon them as Members of either House, which Vote We whose Names are under Written being Peers of this Realm, do humbly conceive, is not agreeable to the said two Previous Orders, and it having been humbly offered, and insisted upon by divers of us, that the Proviso in the late Act Entituled An Act for preventing Dangers, that may happen from Popish Recusants; might be added to the Bill depending, Whereby the Peerage of every Peer of this Realm, and all their Priviledges, might be preserved in this Bill, as fully as in the said late Act. Yet the House not pleasing to admit of the said Proviso, but proceeding to the passing of the said Vote, We do humbly upon the Grounds aforesaid, and according unto our undoubted Right, enter this our Dissent from, and Protestation against the same.
This was their last Protestation; for after this they altered their Method, and reported not the Votes of the Committee, and parts of the Bill to the House, as they past them, but took the same Order as is observed in other Bills, not to report unto the House, untill they had gone through with the Bill, and so report all the Amendments together. This they thought a way of more Dispach and which did prevent all Protestations, untill it came to the House; for the Votes of a Committee, though of the whole House, are not thought of that weight, as that there should be allowed the entering a Dissent of them, or Protestation against them.
The Bill being read over at the Committee, the Lord Keeper objected against the form of it, and desired that he might put it in another Method, which was easily allowed him, that being not the Dispute. But it was observeable the Hand of God was upon them in this whole Affair; their Chariot-wheels were taken off, they drew heavily. A Bill so long designed, prepared, and of that Moment to all their Affairs, had hardly a sensible Composure.
The first part of the Bill that was fallen upon; was, whether there should be an Oath at all in the Bill, and this was the only part the Court-Party defended with Reason: for the whole Bill being to enjoin an Oath, the House might reject it, but the Committee was not to destroy it. Yet the Lord Hallifax did with that quickness, Learning, and Elegance, which are inseparable from all his Discourses, make appear, that as there really was no Security to any State by Oaths, so also, no private Person,much less Statesman, would ever order his Affairs as relying on it, no Man would ever sleep with open Doors, or unlockt up Treasure, or Plate, should all the Town be sworn not to Rob; So that the use of multiplying Oaths had been most commonly to Exclude, or disturb some honest Consciencious Men, who would never have prejudiced the Government. It was also insisted on by that Lord and others, that the Oath imposed by the Bill, contained Three Clauses, the two former Assertory, and the last Promissory, and that it was worthy the Consideration of the Bishops, Whether Assertory Oaths, which were properly appointed to give testimony of a matter of Fact, whereof a Man is capable to be fully assured by the evidence of his Senses, be lawfully to be made use of to Confirm, or Invalidate Doctrinal Propositions, and whether that Legislative power, which imposes such an Oath, doth not necessarily assume to itself and Infallibility? And, as for Promissory Oaths, It was desired that those Learned Prelates would consider the Opinion of Grotius de jure Belli & pacis, lib. 2. cap. XIII. who seems to make it plain that those kind of Oaths are forbidden by our Saviour Christ, Mat. 5.34, 37. and whether it would not become the Fathers of the Church, when they have well weighed that and other places of the New Testament; to be more tender in multiplying Oaths, than hitherto the great Men of the Church have been? But the Bishops carried the Point, and an Oath was ordered by the major Vote.
The next thing in Consideration, was about the Persons that should be enjoined to take this Oath; and those were to be, all such as enjoyed any beneficial Office or Employment, Ecclesiastical, Civill, or Military; and no farther went the Debate for some hours, untill at last the Lord Keeper rises up, and with an eloquent Oration, desires to add Privy Counsellors, Justices of the Peace, and Members of both Houses; The two former particularly mentioned only to usher in the latter; which was so directly against the two Previous Votes, the first of which was enrolled amongst the standing Orders of the House, that it wanted a Man of no less assurance in his Eloquence to propose it, and he was driven hard, when he was forced to tell the House, that they were Masters of their own Orders, and Interpretation of them.
The next consideration at the Committee was the Oath itself, and it was desired by the Countrey Lords, that it might be clearly known, whether it were meant all for an Oath, or some of it a Declaration, and some an Oath? If the latter, then it was desired it might be distinctly parted, and that the Declaratory part should be subscribed by itself, and not sworn. There was no small pains taken by the Lord Keeper and the Bishops, to prove that it was brought in; the two first parts were only a Declaration, and not an Oath, and though it was replied that to declare upon one’s Oath, or to abhorr upon one’s Oath, is the same thing with I do Swear; yet there was some difficulty to obtain the dividing of them, and that the Declaratory part should be only Subscribed, and the rest Sworn to.
The Persons being determined, and this division agreed to, the next thing was the parts of the Declaration, wherein the first was; I A. B. do declare that it is not lawful upon any pretence whatsoever, to take up Armes against the King. This was liable to great Objections; for it was said it might introduce a great change of the Government, to oblige all the Men in great Trust in England, to declare that exact Boundary, and Extent, of the Oath of Allegiance, and inforce some things to be Stated, that are much better involved in Generals, and peradventure are not capable of another way of expression, without great wrong on the one side, or the other. There is a Law of 25 Edward 3. that Armes shall not be taken up against the King, and that it is Treason to do so, and it is a very just and reasonable Law; but it is an idle question at best, to ask whether Armes in any case can be taken up against a lawful Prince, because it necessarily brings in the debate in every Man’s mind, how there can be a distinction then left between Absolute, and Bounded Monarchies, if Monarchs have only the fear of God, and no fear of human Resistance to restrain them. And it was farther urged; that if the chance of human Affairs in future Ages, should give the French King a just Title and Investiture in the Crown of England, and he should avowedly own a design by force, to change the Religion, and make his Government here as Absolute as in France, by the extirpation of the Nobility, Gentry, and principal Citizens of the Protestant Party, whether in such, or like Cases, this Declaration will be a Service to the Government, as it is now establisht. Nay, and it was farther said, that they overthrow the Government that suppose to place any part of it above the fear of Man: For in our English Government, and all bounded Monarchies, where the Prince is not absolute, there every individual Subject is under the fear of the King, and His People, either for breaking the Peace, or disturbing the common Interest that every Man hath in it, or if he invades the Person or Right of his Prince, he invades his whole People, who have bound up in him, and derive from Him, all their Liberty, Property, and Safety. As also the Prince himself, is under the fear of breaking that Golden Chain and Connexture between Him and his People, by making his interest contrary to that they justly and rightly claim. And therefore neither our Ancestors, nor any other Country free like ours, whilst they preserved their Liberties, did ever suffer any mercenary, or standing Guards to their Prince, but took care that his Safety should be in Them, as theirs was in Him. Though these were the Objections to this Head, yet they were but lightly touched, and not fully insisted upon, until the debate of the second Head, where the Scope of the Design was opened clearer, and more distinct to every Man’s capacity.
The second was, And that I do abhorr that Traiterous Position of taking Armes by His Authority against His person. To this was objected, That if this be meant an Explanation of the Oath of Allegiance to leave men without pretense to oppose where the individual person of the King is, then it was to be considered, that the proposition as it is here set down is universal, and yet in most cases the position is not to be abhorred by honest or wise men: For there is but one case, and that never like to happen again, where this position is in danger to be Traiterous, which was the Case of the Long Parliament, made perpetual by the King’s own Act, by which the Government was perfectly altered, and made inconsistent with itself; but it is to be supposed the Crown hath sufficient warning, and full power to prevent the falling again into that danger. But the other cases are many, and such as may every day occurr, wherein this position is so far from Traiterous, that it would prove both necessary and our duty.The Famous instance of Henry 6 who being a soft and weak Prince, when taken Prisoner by his Cousin Edward 4. that pretended to the Crown, and the great Earl of Warwick, was carried in their Armies, gave what orders and Commissions they pleased, and yet all those that were Loyal to him adhered to his Wife and Son, fought in a pitcht battel against him in person, and retook him. This was directly taking up Armes by His Authority against his person, and against those that were Commissioned by Him, and yet to this day no Man hath ever blamed them, or thought but that, if they had done other, they had betrayed their Prince.The great Case of Charles 6. of France, who being of a weak and crazie Brain, yet governed by himself, or rather by his Wife, a Woman of passionate, and heady humour, that hated her Son the Dolphin, a vigorous and brave Prince, and passionately loved her Daughter; so that She easily (being pressed by the Victory of Henry 5. of England) complied to settle the Crown of France upon Him, to marry her Daughter to Him, and own his Right, contrary to the Salique Law. This was directly opposed with Armes and Force by the Dolphin, and all good French Men, even in his Father’s lifetime. A third instance is that of King James of blessed Memory, who when he was a Child, was seized, and taken Prisoner by those, who were justly thought no friends to His Crown, or Safety, and if the case should be put, that a future King of England of the same temper with Henry 6. or Charles 6 of France, should be taken Prisoner by Spaniard, Dutch, or French, whose overgrowing power should give them thoughts of vast Empire, and should, with the person and Commission of the King, invade England for a Conquest, were it not suitable to our Loyalty to join with the Son of that King, for the defence of his Father’s Crown and Dignity, even against his Person and Commission? In all these and the like cases it was not justified, but that the strict Letter of the Law might be otherwise construed, and when wisely considered, fit it should be so, yet that it was not safe either for the Kingdom, or person of the King and his Crown, that it should be in express words sworn against, for if we shall forswear all Distinctions, which ill Men have made ill use of, either in Rebellion or Heresy, we must extend the Oath to all particulars of Divinity, and Politiques. To this the aged Bishop of Winchester replied, That to take up Armes in such cases, is not against, but for the person of the King. But his Lordship was told that he might then as well, nay much better, have left it upon the Old Oath of Allegiance, than made such a wide gapp in his new Declaration.
The third and last part of the Declaration was or against those that are Commissioned by him. Here the mask was plainly pluckt off, and Arbitrary Government appeared bare-faced, and a standing Army to be established by Act of Parliament, for it was said by several of the Lords, That if whatever is by the King’s Commission, be not opposed by the King’s Authority, then a standing Army is Law whenever the King pleases; and yet the King’s Commission was never thought sufficient to Protect, or justify any man, where it is against his Authority, which is the Law; this allowed alters the whole Law of England, in the most essential and Fundamental parts of it, and makes the whole Law of property to become Arbitrary, and without effect, whenever the King pleases.
For instance, if in a Suit with a great Favourite, a man recovers House and Lands, and by course of Law be put into Possession by the Sheriff, and afterwards a Warrant is obtained by the interest of the person, to command some Souldiers of the standing Army to take the possession and deliver it back, in such a case, the man in possession may justify to defend himself, and killing those who shall violently endeavour to enter his house, the party, whose house is invaded, takes up Armes by the King’s Authority against those, who are Commissioned by him. And it is the same case, if the Souldiers had been Commissioned to defend the House against the Sheriff, when he first endeavored to take the possession according to Law; neither could any Order, or Commission of the King’s, put a stop to the Sheriff, if he had done his duty in raising the whole force of that County to put the Law in execution; neither can the Court, from whom that Order proceeds, (if they observe their oaths, and duty) put any stop to the execution of the Law in such a case, by any commance or commission from the King whatsoever; Nay, all the Guards, and standing forces in England, cannot be secured by any Commission from being a direct Riot, and unlawful Assembly, unless in time of open War and Rebellion. And it is not out of the way to suppose, that if any King hereafter, shall contrary to the petition of Right, demand, and levie Money by Privy-Seal, or otherwise, and cause Souldiers to enter, and distrain for such like illegall Taxes, that in such a case any Man may by Law defend his house against them; and yet this is of the same nature with the former, and against the words of the Declaration. These instances may seem somewhat rough, and not with the usual reverence towards the Crown, but they alleadged, they were to be excused, when all was concerned, And without speaking thus plain, it is refused to be understood; and, however happy we are now, either in the present Prince, or those we have in prospect, yet the suppositions are not extravagant, when we consider, Kings are but Men, and compassed with more temptations than others; And, as the Earl of Salisbury, who stood like a Rock of Nobility, and English Principles, excellently replied to the Lord Keeper, who was pleased to term them remote Instances, that they would not hereafter prove so, when the Declaration had made the practise of them Justifiable.
These Arguments enforced the Lords for the Bill to a change of this part of the Declaration, so that they agreed the second, and third parts of it, should run thus; And I do abhorr that Traiterous position of taking Armes by His Authority, against his person, or against those, that are commissioned by Him according to Law, in time of Rebellion, or War, acting in pursuance of such Commission. Which mends the matter very little; for if they mean the King’s Authority, and his lawful Commission, to be two things, and such as are capable of Opposition, then it is as dangerous to the Liberties of the Nation, as when it run in the former words, and we only cheated by new Phrasing of it. But if they understand them to be one and the same thing, as really and truly they are, then we are only to abhorr the Treason of the position of taking Armes by the King’s Authority against the King’s Authority, because it is Non-sense, and not practicable; and so they had done little but confest, that all the Clergy and many other Persons, have been forced by former Acts of this present Parliament, to make this Declaration in other words, that now are found so far from being Justifiable, that they are directly contrary to Magna Charta our Properties, and the Established Law and Government of the Nation.
The next thing in course was, the Oath itself, against which the Objection lay so plain, and so strong at the first entrance, Viz. That there was no care taken of the Doctrine, but only the Discipline of the Church. The Papists need not scruple the taking this Oath; for Episcopacy remains in its greatest Lustre, though the Popish Religion was introduced, but the King’s Supremacy is justled aside by this Oath, and makes better room for an Ecclesiastical One, in so much that with this, and much more, they were inforced to change their Oath, and the next day bring it in as followeth. I do swear that I will not endeavour to alter the Protestant Religion or the Government either of Church or State. By this they thought they had salved all, and now began to call their Oath A Security for the Protestant Religion, and the only good design to prevent Popery, if we should have a Popish Prince. But the Countrey Lords wondered at their confidence in this, since they had never thought of it before, and had been but the last preceeding day of the Debate by pure Shame compelled to this Addition; for it was not unknown to them, that some of the Bishops themselves had told some of the Roman Catholick Lords of the House, that care had been taken that it might be such an Oath, as might not bear upon them. But let it be whatever they would have it, yet the Countrey Lords thought the addition was unreasonable, and of as dangerous consequence as the rest of the Oath. And it was not to be wondered at, if the addition of the best things, wanting the Authority of an express divine Institution, should make an Oath not to endeavor to alter, just so much worse by the addition. For as the Earl of Shaftsbury very well urged, that it is a far different thing to believe, or to be fully persuaded of the truth of the Doctrine of Our Church; and to swear never to endeavor to alter; which last, must be utterly unlawful, unless you place an Infallibility either in the Church, or Your Self, you being otherwise obliged to alter, whenever a clearer, or better light comes to you; and he desired leave to ask, where are the Boundaries, or where shall we find, how much is meant by the Protestant Religion. The Lord Keeper thinking he had now got an advantage, with his usual Eloquence, desires it might not be told in Gath, nor published in the Streets of Askalon, that a Lord of so great Parts, and Eminence and professing himself for the Church of England, should not know what is meant by the Protestant Religion. This was seconded with great pleasantness by Divers of the Lords the Bishops; but the Bishop of Winchester, and some others of them were pleased to condescend to instruct that Lord, that the Protestant Religion was comprehended in 39 Articles, the Liturgie, the Catechisme, the Homilies, and the Canons. To this the Earl of Shaftsbury replied, that he begged so much Charity of them to believe, that he knew the Protestant Religion so well, and was so confirmed in it, that he hoped he should burn for the witness of it, if Providence should call him to it: But he might perhaps think some things not necessary, that they accounted Essential, nay he might think some things not true, or agreeable to the Scripture, that they might call Doctrines of the Church. Besides when he was to swear never to endeavor to alter, it was certainly necessary to know how far the just extent of this Oath was; but since they had told him that the Protestant Religion was in those 5 tracts, he had still to ask, whether they meant those whole Tracts were the Protestant Religion, or only that the Protestant Religion was contained in all those, but that every part of these was not the Protestant Religion. If they meant the former of these then he was extreamly in the dark to find the Doctrine of Predestination in the 18. and 17. Article to be owned by so few great Doctors of the Church, and to find the 19.Article to define the Church directly as the Independents do. Besides the 20.Article stating the Authority of the Church is very dark, and either contradicts itself, or says nothing, or what is contrary to the known Laws of the Land; besides several other things in the 39 Articles, have been Preached, and Writ against by Men of great Favor, Power, and Preferment in the Church. He humbly conceived the Liturgie was not so sacred, being made by Men the other day, and thought to be more differing from the dissenting Protestants, and less easy to be complied with, upon the advantage of a pretense well known unto us all of making alterations as might the better unite us; instead whereof, there is scarce one alteration, but widens the breach, and no ordination allowed by it here, (as it now stands last reformed in the Act of Uniformity) but what is Episcopall; in so much that a Popish Priest is capable, when converted, of any Church preferment without Reordination; but no Protestant Minister not Episcopally ordained, but is required to be reordained, as much as in us lies unchurching all the forreign Protestants, that have not Bishops, though the contrary was both allowed, and practised from the beginning of the Reformation till the time of that Act, and several Bishops made of such, as were never ordained Priests by Bishops. Moreover the Uncharitableness of it was so much against the Interest of the Crown, and Church of England (casting off the dependency of the whole Protestant party abroad) that it would have been bought by the Pope and French King at a vast summ of Money; and it is difficult to conceive so great an advantage fell to them meerly by chance, and without their help; so that he thought to endeavor to alter, and restore the Liturgy to what it was in Queen Elizabeth’s days might consist with his being a very good Protestant.
As to the Catachisme, he really thought it might be mended, and durst declare to them, it was not well that there was not a better made.
For the Homilies he thought there might be a better Book made, and the 3.Homily of Repairing and keeping clean of Churches, might be omitted.
What is yet stranger than all this, The Canons of our Church are directly the old Popish Canons, which are still in force, and no other; which will appear, if you turn to the Stat. 25. Henry 8. cap. 19 confirmed and received by I. Elizabeth where all those Canons are established, untill an alteration should be made by the King in pursuance of that Act; which thing was attempted by Edward the 6th. but not perfected, and let alone ever since, for what reasons the Lords the Bishops could best tell; and it was very hard to be obliged by Oath not to endeavour to alter either the English Common-Prayer book, or the Canon of the Mass. But if they meant the latter, That the Protestant Religion is conteined in all those, but that every part of those is not the Protestant Religion, then he apprehended it might be in the Bishops’ Power to declare ex post facto what is the Protestant Religion or not, or else they must leave it to every man to judge for himself, what parts of those books are or are not, and then their Oath had been much better let alone. Much of this nature was said by that Lord, and Others, and the great Officers, and Bishops were so hard put to it, that they seemed willing, and convinced to admit of an Expedient. The Lord Wharton an Old and Expert Parliament Man of eminent Piety and Abilities, beside a great Friend to the Protestant Religion, and Interest of England, offered as a cure to the whole Oath, and what might make it pass in all the 3 parts of it, without any farther debate, the addition of these words at the latter end of the Oath, Viz. as the same is or shall be established by Act of Parliament, but this was not endured at all, when the Lord Grey of Rollston, a worthy and true English Lord, offered another Expedient, which was the addition of words, by force or fraud, to the beginning of the Oath, and then it would run thus, I do swear not to endeavor by force or fraud to alter; this was also a cure that would have passed the whole Oath, and seemed as if it would have carried the whole House. The Duke of York and Bishop of Rochester both seconding it; but the Lord Treasurer, who had privately before consented to it, speaking against it, gave the word and sign to that party, and it being put to the question, the major Vote answered all arguments, and the Lord Grey’s Proposition was laid aside.
Having thus carried the question, relying upon their strength of Votes, taking advantage that those expedients that had been offered, extended to the whole Oath, though but one of the 3 Clauses in the Oath had been debated, the other two not mentioned at all, they attempted strongly at nine of the Clock at night to have the whole Oath put to the question, and though it was resolutely opposed by the Lord Mohun, a Lord of great courage, and resolution in the Publick Interest, and one whose own personal merits, as well as his Father’s, gave him a just title to the best favors of the Court; yet they were not diverted but by as great a disorder as ever was seen in that House proceeding from the rage those unreasonable proceedings had caused in the Country Lords, they standing up in a clump together, and crying out with so loud a continued Voice Adjourn, that when silence was obtained, Fear did what Reason could not do, cause the question to be put only upon the first Clause concerning Protestant Religion, to which the Bishops desired might be added, as it is now established, and one of the eminentest of those were for the Bill added the words by Law; so that, as it was passed, it ran, I A. B. do swear that I will not endeavor to alter the Protestant Religion now by Law established in the Church of England. And here observe the words by Law do directly take in the Canons though the Bishops had never mentioned them. And now comes the consideration of the latter part of the Oath which comprehends these 2 Clauses, viz. nor the Government either in Church or State, wherein the Church came first to be considered. And it was objected by the Lords against the Bill that it was not agreeable to the King’s Crown and Dignity, to have his Subjects sworn to the Government of the Church equally as to Himself; That for the Kings of England to swear to maintain the Church, was a different thing from enjoining all His Officers, and both His Houses of Parliament to swear to them. It would be well understood, before the Bill passed, what the Government of the Church (we are to swear to) is, and what the Boundaries of it, whether it derives no Power, nor Authority, nor the exercise of any Power, Authority, or Function, but from the King as head of the Church, and from God as through him, as all his other Officers do?
For no Church or Religion can justify itself to the Government, but the State Religion, that ownes an entire dependency on, and is but a branch of it; or the independent Congregations; whilest they claim no other power, but the exclusion of their own members from their particular Communion, and endeavor not to set up a Kingdom of Christ to their own use in this World, whilest our Saviour hath told us, that His Kingdom is not of it, for otherwise there would be Imperium in imperio, and two distinct Supream Powers inconsistent with each other, in the same place, and over the same persons. The Bishops alleadged that Priesthood and the Power thereof, and the Authorities belonging thereunto were derived immediately from Christ, but that the license of exercising that Authority and Power in any Country is derived from the civil Magistrate: To which was replied, that it was a dangerous thing to secure by Oath, and Act of parliament those in the excercise of an Authority, and power in the King’s Country, and over His Subjects, which being received from Christ himself, cannot be altered, or limitted by the King’s Laws; and that this was directly to set the Mitre above the Crown. And it was farther offered, that this Oath was the greatest attempt that had been made against the King’s Supremacy since the Reformation; for the King in Parliament may alter, diminish, enlarge, or take away any Bishoprick; He may take any part of a Diocess, or a whole Diocess, and put them under Deans, or other Persons; for if this be not lawful, but that Episcopacy should be jure divino, the maintaining the Government: as it is now, is unlawful; since the Deans of Hereford, and Salisbury, have very large tracts under their jurisdiction, and several Parsons of Parishes have Episcopal jurisdiction; so that at best that Government wants alteration, that is so imperfectly settled. The Bishop of Winchester affirmed in this debate several times, that there was no Christian Church before Calvin that had not Bishops; to which he was answered that the Albigenses a very numerous People, and the only visible known Church of true believers, of some Ages, had no Bishops. It is very true, what the Bishop of Winchester replied, that they had some amongst them, who alone had power to ordain, but that was only to commit that power to the Wisest, and Gravest Men amongst Them, and to secure ill, and unfit Men from being admitted into the Ministery; but they exercised no jurisdiction over the others. And it was said by divers of the Lords, that they thought Episcopal Government best for the Church, and most suitable for the Monarchy, but they must say with the Lord of Southampton upon the occasion of this Oath in the Parliament of Oxford, I will not be sworn not to take away Episcopacie, there being nothing, that is not of Divine Precept, but such circumstances may come in human affairs, as may render it not Eligible by the best of Men. And it was also said, that if Episcopacy be to be received as by Divine Precept, the King’s Supremacy is overthrown, and so is also the opinion of the Parliaments both in Edward 6. and Queen Elizabeth’s time; and the constitution of our Church ought to be altered, as hath been shewed. But the Church of Rome itself hath contradicted that Opinion, when She hath made such vast tracts of ground, and great numbers of Men exempt from Episcopal jurisdiction. The Lord Wharton upon the Bishop’s claim to a Divine Right, asked a very hard question, viz. whether they then did not claim withall, a power of Excommunicating their Prince, which they Evading to answer, and being pressed by some other Lords, said they never had done it. Upon which the Lord Hallifax told them that that might well be; for since the Reformation they had hitherto had too great a dependance on the Crown to venture on that, or any other Offence to it, and so the debate passed on to the third Clause, which had the same exceptions against it with the two former, of being unbounded How far any Man might meddle, and how far not, and is of that extent, that it overthrew all Parliaments, and left them capable of nothing but giving Money. For what is the business of Parliaments but the alteration, either by adding, or taking away some part of the Government, either in Church or State? And every new Act of Parliament is an alteration; and what kind of Government in Church and State must that be, which I must swear upon no alteration of Time, emergencie of Affairs, nor variation of human Things, never to endeavor to alter? Would it not be requisite that such a Government should be given by God himself, and that withall the Ceremonie of Thunder, and Lightening, and visible appearance to the whole People, which God vouchsafed to the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai? and yet you shall nowhere read that they were sworn to it by any oath like this: nay on the Contrary, the Princes and the Rulers, even those recorded for the best of them, did make several variations. The Lord Stafford, a Noble Man of great Honor and Candour, but who had been all along for the Bill, yet was so far convinced with the debate, that he freely declared, there ought to be an addition to the Oath, for preserving the freedom of debates in Parliament. This was strongly urged by the never to be forgotten, Earl of Bridgwater, who gave reputation, and strength to this Cause of England; as did also those worthy Earls Denbigh, Clarendon, and Aylisbury, Men of great Worth and Honor. To Salve all that was said by these, and the Other Lords, The Lord Keeper and the Bishops urged, that there was a Proviso, which fully preserved the Priviledges of Parliament, and upon farther enquiry there appearing no such, but only a Previous vote, as is before mentioned, they allowed that that Previous vote should be drawn into a Proviso, and added to the Bill, and then in their opinion the Exception to the Oath for this cause was perfectly removed; but on the other side it was offered, that a positive absolute Oath being taken, a Proviso in the Act could not dispence with it without some reference in the body of the Oath, unto that Proviso; but this also was utterly denied, untill the next day, the debate going on upon other matters, the Lord Treasurer, whose authority easily obtained with the major Vote, reassumed what was mentioned in the Debates of the proceeding days, and allowed a reference to the Proviso, so that it then past in these words, I, A. B. do swear that I will not endeavor to alter the Protestant Religion now by Law Establisht in the Church of England, nor the Government of this Kingdom in Church, or State, as it is now by Law established, and I do take this Oath according to the meaning of this Act and the Proviso contained in the same, so help me God.
There was a passage of the very greatest observation in the whole debate, and which with most clearness shewed what the great Men and Bishops aimed at, and should in order have come in before, but that it deserved so particular a consideration, that I thought best to place it here by itself, which was, that upon passing of the Proviso for preserving the Rights, and Priviledges of Parliaments made out of the Previous Votes, It was excellently observed by the Earl of Bullingbrook, a Man of great Abilitie, and Learning in the Laws of the Land, and perfectly stedfast in all good English Principles, that though that Proviso did preserve the freedom of Debates and Votes in Parliament, yet the Oath remained notwithstanding that Proviso upon all Men, that shall take as a prohibition either by Speech, or Writing, or Address, to endeavor any alteration in Religion, Church, or State; nay also upon the Members of both Houses otherwise than as they speak, and vote in open Parliaments or Committees: for this Oath takes away all private Converse upon any such affairs even one with another. This was seconded by the Lord De la mer, whose Name is well known, as also his Worth, Piety, and Learning; I should mention his great Merits too, but I know not whether that be lawful, they lying yet unrewarded. The Lord Shaftsbury presently drew up some words for preserving the same Rights, Priviledges, and Freedoms, which Men now enjoy by the Laws established, that so by a side Wind we might not be deprived of the great Liberty we enjoy as English Men, and desired those words might be inserted in that Proviso before it past. This was seconded by many of the formentioned Lords, and prest upon those terms, that they desired not to countenance, or make in the least degree anything lawful, that was not already so, but that they might not be deprived by this dark way of proceeding of that Liberty 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 Lord 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 Armie, 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 withall none of their Lordships did offer anything 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 that 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.
There was another thing before the finishing of the Oath, which I shall here also mention, which was an additional Oath tendered by the Marquess 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 Quallity, Parts, and Fortune, and owning of good Principles, concurr 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 Judge’s Oath,16 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 tearms 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 the affection of his People, making Him become less 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 quallifications of the Persons All that are, or shall be Privy Counsellors, Justices of the Peace, or possessors of any beneficial Office, Ecclesiastical, Civill, or Military, are to take the Oath when summoned, upon pain of £.500 and being made uncapable of bearing Office, the Members of both Houses are not made uncapable but liable to the penalty of £.500 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 £.500 was directly against the latter of the 2. 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, untill they did so. Yet their Ends were not to be compassed without invading the latter Previous Vote, and contrary to the Rights and Priviledges of Parliament enforce them to swear, or pay £.500 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 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 £.500 and also that this Act had a direct retrospect (which ought never to be in Penall Laws) for this Act punishes Men for having an Office without taking this Oath, which office, before this Law pass, they may now 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 1. 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, 17 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 last 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 Winchilsea readily apprehending the Dialect, in a short reply, put an end to the Debate, and the major Vote ultima ratio Senatuum, & Conciliorum, carried the Question as the Court, and Bishops would have it.
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 priviledg 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 Dorsit, and the Earl of Stamford, a Young Noble Man of great hopes, The Lord Eure, the Lord Viscount Say and Seal, and the Lord Pagitt in two; the Lord Audley and the Lord Fitzwater in the 3d. and the Lord Peter, a Noble Man 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 they did their parts excellently well. The Lord Viscount Hereford was a steady Man among the Countrey Lords; so also was the Lord Townsend, a Man justly of great Esteem, and power in his own countrey, 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 Countrey on purpose to oppose the Bill, stuck very fast to the Countrey party, and spoke many excellent things against it. I dare not mention the Roman Catholick Lords, and some others, for fear I hurt them; but thus much I shall say of the Roman Catholick 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 Ruttland, Lord Sandys, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Lord North, and Lord Crew, ought to be mentioned with Honor, having taken care their Votes should maintain their own interest, and opinions; but the Earls of Exceter, and Chesterfield, that gave no proxies this Sessions, the Lord Montague of Boughton, that gave his to the Treasurer, and 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 Falconbridge, and the Lord Berkeley of Berkeley Castle, because you find them not mentioned amongst their old Friends, all I have to say, is That the Earl of Carlisle stept aside to receive his Pension, the Lord Berkeley to dine with the Lord Treasurer, but the Lord Viscount Falconberg, like the Noble Man in the Gospel, went away sorrowfull, for he had a Great Office at Court; but I despair not of giving you a better account of them next Sessions, 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 Partie is not yet set up, but must be the work of another Session, though it be admirable to me, how the King can be enduced 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 adviseable, after fifteen years of the highest Peace, Quiet, and Obedience, that ever was in any Countrey, that there should be a pretense 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 Peerage, and a standing Army are like two Buckets, 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 neighbor 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 Countrey is a clear instance of it; For though the White Rose and the Red changed fortunes often to the ruine, slaughter and beheading of 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 deale with such a sort of Men, or reap the advantages, if they 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; T’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 Armes could have brought him to no happier condition, than our King his Son hath before him whenever he please. However,This may be said for the honor of this Session, that there is no Prince in Christendom hath at a greater expence of Money, maintained for two Months’ space, a Nobler, or more useful dispute of the Politiques,Mystery, and secrets of Government, both in Church and State, than this has been; Of which noble design no part is owing to any of the Countrey Lords, for they several of them begged, at the first entrance into the Debate, that they might not be engaged in such disputes, as would unavoidably produce divers things to be said, which they were willing to let alone. But I must bear them witness, and so will you, having read this, that they did their parts in it, when it came to it, and spoke plain like old English Lords.
I shall conclude with that, upon the whole matter, is most worthy your consideration, That the design is to declare us first into another Government more Absolute, and Arbitrary, than the Oath of Allegiance, or old Law knew, and then make us swear unto it, as it is so established: And less than this the Bishops could not offer in requital to the Crown for parting with its Supremacy, and suffering them to be sworn to equal with itself. Archbishop Laud was the first Founder of this Device; in his Canons of 1640. you shall find an Oath very like this, and a Declaratory Canon preceding that Monarchy is of divine Right, which was also affirmed in this debate by our Reverend Prelates, and is owned in Print by no less Men than Arch Bishop Usher, and B. Sanderson; and I am afraid it is the avowed opinion of much the greater part of our dignified Clergie. If so, I am sure they are the most dangerous sort of Men alive to our English Government, and it is the first thing ought to be lookt into, and strictly examined by our Parliaments; ’tis the leaven that corrupts the whole lump; for if that be true, I am sure Monarchy is not to be bounded by human Laws, and the 8. chap. of I. Samuel, will prove (as many of our Divines would have it) the Great Charter of the Royal Prerogative, and our Magna Charta that says Our Kings may not take our Fields, our Vineyards, our Corn, and our Sheep is not in force, but void and null, because against divine Institution; and you have the Riddle out, why the Clergy are so ready to take themselves, & impose upon others such kind of Oaths as these, they have placed themselves, and their possessions upon a better, and a surer bottom (as they think) than Magna Charta, and so have no more need of, or concern for it. Nay what is worse, they have truckt away the Rights and Liberties of the People in this, and all other countries wherever they have had opportunity, that they might be owned by the Prince to be Jure Divino, and maintained in that Pretention by that absolute power and force, they have contributed so much to put into his hands; and that Priest, and Prince may, like Castor and Pollux, be worshipt together as Divine in the same temple by Us poor Lay-subjects; and that sense and reason, Law, Properties, Rights, and Liberties, shall be understood as the Oracles of those Deities shall interpret, or give signification to them, and never be made use of in the world to oppose the Absolute, and Freewill of either of them.
Sir, I have no more to say, but begg your Pardon for this tedious Trouble, and that you will be very careful to whom you communicate any of this.