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to put an end to those severities under which these Chap. religionists had so long laboured. It was proposed to reconcile the presbyterians by a compre- 1668. hension, and to grant a toleration to the independents and other sectaries. Favour seems not, by this scheme, as by others embraced during the present reign, to have been intended the catholics: Yet were the zealous commons so disgusted, that they could not be prevailed on even to give the king thanks for the triple league, however laudable that measure was then, and has ever since been, esteemed. They immediately voted an address for a proclamation against conventicles. Their request was complied with; but as the king still dropped some hints of his desire to reconcile his protestant subjects, the commons passed a very unusual vote, that no man should bring into the house any bill of that nature. The king in vain reiterated his solicitations for supply; represented the necessity of equipping a fleet; and even offered, that the money which they should grant should be collected and issued for that purpose by commissioners appointed by the house. Instead of complying, the commons voted an inquiry into all the miscarriages during the late war; the slackening of sail after the duke's victory from false orders delivered by Brounker, the miscarriage at Bergen, the division of the fleet under prince Rupert and Albemarle, the disgrace of Chatham. Brounker was expelled the house, and ordered to be impeached. Commissioner Pet, who had neglected orders issued for the security of Chatham, met with the same fate. These impeachments were never prosecuted. The house at length, having been indulged in all their prejudices, were prevailed with to vote the king three hundred and ten thousand pounds, by an imposition on wine and other liquors 5 after which they were adjourned.
HISTORY OF GREAT BRITAIN.Public business, besides being retarded by the disgust of the commons against the tolerating maxims of the court, met with obstructions this sessions from a quarrel between the two houses. Skinner, a rich merchant in London, having suffered some injuries from the East India company, laid the matter by petition before the house of lords, by whom he was relieved in costs and damages to the amount of five thousand pounds. The commons voted, that the lords, in taking cognizance of this affair, originally, without any appeal from inferior courts, had acted in a manner not agreeable to the laws of the land, and tending to deprive the subject of the right, ease, and benefit due to him by these laws; and that Skinner, in prosecuting the suit after this manner, had infringed the privileges of the commons: For which offence they ordered him to be taken into custody. Some conferences ensued between the houses; where the lords were tenacious of their right of judicature, and maintained that the method in which they had exercised it was quite regular. The commons rose into a great ferment; and went so far as to vote, that "whoever should "be aiding or assisting in putting in execution the "order or sentence of the house of lords, in the "case of Skinner against the East-India company; "should be deemed a betrayer of the rights and li"berties of the commons of England, and an in"fringer of the privileges of the house of coni"mons." They rightly judged, that it would not be easy, after this vote, to find any one who would venture to incur their indignation. The proceedings indeed of the lords seem in this case to have been unusual, and without precedent.
The king's necessities obliged him again to assemble the parliament, who shewed some disposition to relieve him. The price, however, which he must pay for this indulgence, was his yielding
to new laws against conventicles. His complaisance c H^A p. in this particular contributed more to gain the com- v^vO mons, than all the pompous pretences of support- 1669. ing the triple alliance, that popular measure by -which he expected to make such advantage. The quarrel between the two houses was revived; and as the commons had voted only four hundred thousand pounds, with which the king was not satisfied, he thought proper, before they had carried their vote into a law, to prorogue them. The only bu- nthofDesiness finished this short session was, the receiving cembeTof the report of the committee appointed for examining the public accounts. On the first inspection of this report, there appears a great sum, no less than a million and a half, unaccounted for; and the natural inference is, that the king had much abused the trust reposed in him by parliament. But a more accurate inspection of particulars serves, in a great measure, to remove this imputation. The king, indeed, went so far as to tell the parliament from the throne, "That he had fully "informed himself of that matter, and did affirm, "that no part of those monies which they had "given him had been diverted to other uses, but, "on the contrary, besides all those supplies, a very "great sum had been raised out of his standing re"venue and credit, and a very great debt con"tracted; and all for the war." Though artificial pretences have often been employed by kings in their speeches to parliament, and by none more than Charles, it is somewhat difficult to suspect him of a direct lie and falsehood. He must have had some reasons, and perhaps not unplausible ones, for this affirmation, of which all his hearers, as they had the accounts lying before them, were at that time competent judges.d
J See note [N] at the end of the volume.
c H A p. The method which all parliaments had hitherto v^^, followed was, to vote a particular sum for the sup
1669. ply, without any distinction, or any appropriation to particular services. So long as the demands of the crown were small and casual, no great inconveniences arose from this practice. But as all the measures of government were now changed, it must be confessed, that, if the king made a just application of public money, this inaccurate method of proceeding, by exposing him to suspicion, was prejudicial to him. If he were inclined to act otherwise, it was equally hurtful to the people. For these reasons, a contrary practice, during all the late reigns, has constantly been followed by the commons.
1670. When the parliament met after the prorogation, 14th Feb. jnev entereci anew upon the business of supply, and granted the king an additional duty, during eight years, of twelve pounds on each tun of Spanish wine imported, eight on each tun of French. A law also passed empowering him to sell the fee-farm rents; the last remains of the demesnes, by which the ancient kings of England had been supported. By this expedient, he obtained some supply for his present necessities, but left the crown, if possible, still more dependent than before. How much money might be raised, by these sales, is uncertain; but it could not be near one million eight hundred thousand pounds; the sum assigned by some writers.' . The act against conventicles passed, and received the royal assent. It bears the appearance of mitigating the former persecuting laws; but, if we may judge by the spirit, which had broken out almost every session during this parliament, it was not intended as any favour to the non-conformists. Experience probably had taught, that laws over rigid and severe could not be executed. By this act the hearer in a
e Mr. Carte, in his Vindication of the Answer to fhe Bystander, p. 99, says that the sale of the fee-farm rents would not yield above one hnndred thousand pounds, and his reasons appear well founded.
ronventicle (that is, in a dissenting assembly, where c H A K more than five were present, besides the family,) was Vj^zl/ fined five shillings for the first offence, ten for the M second; the preacher twenty pounds for the first offence, forty for the second. The person, in whose house the conventicle met, was amerced a like sum with the preacher. One clause is remarkable; that, if any dispute should arise with regard to the interpretation of any part of the act, the judges should always explain the doubt in the sense least favourable to conventicles, it being the intention of parliament entirely to suppress them. Such was the zeal of the commons, that they violated the plainest and most established maxims of civil policy, which require, that in all criminal prosecutions, favour should always be given to the prisoner.
The affair of Skinner still remained a ground of quarrel between the two houses; but the king prevailed with the peers to accept of the expedient proposed by the commons, that a general razure should be made of all the transactions with regard to that disputed question.
Some attempts were made by the king to effect a union between England and Scotland: Though they were too feeble to remove all the difficulties which obstructed that useful and important undertaking. Commissioners were appointed to meet, in order to regulate the conditions: But the design, chiefly by the intrigues of Laudeidale, soon after came to nothing.
The king, about this time, began frequently to attend the debates of the house of peers. He said, that they amused him, and that he found them no less entertaining than a play. But deeper designs were suspected. As he seemed to interest himself extremely in the cause of lord Roos, who had obtained a divorce from his wife on the accusation of adultery, and applied to parliament for leave to marry again; people imagined, that Charles intended