Page images

tion of the commons.


A.D. 1661. pose of the land forces : a bill for the well govern

ing and regulating corporations: a bill for the uniformity of public prayer : a bill declaring the sole right of the militia to be in the king, and for the present ordering and governing the same; another against the quakers : and, to strike, indeed, at the roots of the principles of liberty, a

bill was passed to restrain unlicensed printing. Precipita- These bills went through the house of com

mons with great precipitation. The corporation bill was carried up to the lords July 6th, and the uniformity bill July 10th; and the commons were so impatient, that, three days afterwards, on the 13th, they sent a message to the lords,* to put them in mind of the despatch of these two bills; and on the 16th another message, for the despatch of the corporation bill: but the lords acted with more coolness and consideration than was agreeable either to the commons or the court.

By the corporation bill, the king was enabled to appoint such commissioners as he should think fit, in all cities, corporations, boroughs, and A.D. 1661. cinque-ports; and it was enacted, that three or more of those commissioners should have proper power to tender to all mayors, aldermen, &c. and other persons, bearing any office, trust, or employment in corporations, the oaths of supremacy ; and this following oath, viz. “I, A. B. do declare, and believe, that it is not lawful, upon any pretence whatsoever, to take up arms against the king; and I do also abhor that traitorous position of taking arms by his authority against his person, or against those commissioned by him. So help me God.”

Corporation bill.

* Lords' Journals.

60 This house of commons began by voting that the solemn league and covenant should be burned by the common hang. man, and that all their members should receive the sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England upon a certain day.

The commissioners, any five or more of them, had a power to remove or displace any such persons as the major part did not approve of, notwithstanding they had taken the oath as the law required.

This bill met with great opposition in the house Opposed in of lords; particularly from the Earls of South- of lords. ampton, Manchester, Bedford, Leicester, and Bolingbroke; Lords Holles, Townshend, Delamere, and Ashley; as it was forcing men to swear to a belief of what was repugnant to the constitution and the laws of nature. Lord Ashley set forth the ill consequences of the bill in various instances, viz. the injustice it might do to the wealthiest,

the house

A.D. 1661. the most able, and the most conscientious mem

bers of their respective corporations: the fixing these in the hands of, perhaps, the most profligate persons in them; at least, the dividing of the people into parties : and he showed that, as it would be a restraint upon those who had a regard to their oaths and their country, it was the most effectual method which could be contrived for lodging the executive power of the government in the hands of such persons as would make no difficulty of subjecting the whole nation to an absolute tyranny both of church and state.

The great spirit with which some of these bills were opposed by so many of the lords in employ

ment, gave uneasiness to the projectors. The Parliament king, therefore, went to the parliament, on the

30th of July 1661, and told them, that “ he knew they had begun many bills which could not be finished till their meeting again; and, that they might be finished then, he forbore to make this a sessions; but was contented they should adjourn to the 20th of November :” a very unusual, if not unprecedented adjournment !

During the adjournment, reports were spread

of a plot * in several counties; and many were A.D. 1661. taken up on these reports, and committed to prison. When the house met, on the 20th of No- Meets

again. vember 1661, the king told them, that “ he knew the visit he made them that day was not necessary, was not of course; yet, if there was no more in it, it would not seem strange that he came to see the lords spiritual and temporal 7 and the commons of England met together.” He took notice of “ the activity of many wicked instruments to disturb the public peace;" recommending it to the parliament “ to find proper remedies for such diseases, and to oblige all men to a proper submission ;” and he concluded with recommending a good correspondence between the two houses.

• Rapin is evidently mis- framed and sent to the lords taken bere ; for he says, that, before the adjournment, and upon the sole foundation of before there was any suggesthis plot, (which he proves to tion of the plot. It is evident, be a contrivance of the court,) that the rumours of the plot the corporation act and all the were only to persuade the proceedings against the non- public that there was a necesconformists were built ; and sity of passing those laws, and that the project of the act of to induce the lords to it. uniformity was now formed : † These were just restored whereas it appears by the Jour- to their seats. nals, that both these acts were


to inquire into the

A.C. 1661. Upon the return of the commons to their Proceedhe house, Sir John Packington opened the scene, parliament. and declared that great numbers were taken up

in his county for the plot. Others supported him, and said, “ Some laws must be made, both to bring the nonconformists under strict obedience or due punishment, and to secure the executive power of the government in such per

sons as should not question or dispute the comCommittee mands of the prince.” A committee of both

houses was appointed to examine into the plot; plot.

and they had power to sit during the adjournments of parliament. They made a strict inquiry, but as there appeared no foundation for the reports, the public were much alarmed at

their power; and, therefore, on the 7th of JaA.D. nuary 1661-2, (the first day of the parliament's

meeting after the Christmas holydays,) Lord Clarendon reported to the house of lords, * “ that the committee of both houses had met several times during the adjournment, and considered of the business referred to them; but, finding some imaginary jealousies of the end and intent of the committee's meeting, they had come to no resolutions, but thought fit to leave the busi

[ocr errors]

* Lords' Journals.

« PreviousContinue »