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A.D. 1675. which thing was attempted by Edward VI. but not
perfected, and was 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 was contained in all those tracts, but that every part of them was not the protestant religion,”—then he apprehended it might be in the bishops' power to declare, ex post facto, what was the protestant religion or not, or else they must leave it to every man to judge for himself what parts of those books were or were not; and then their oath had been much better let alone.
If the lord keeper and the bishops triumphed
over Lord Shaftesbury before his reply, they had The bishops no reason to do it afterwards; for what he said
was not answered by any of them.
This knowledge which, in an unpremeditated reply, he showed of the doctrines of the Church of England, proved the justness of King Charles's remark, “ that his chancellor had more law than all his judges, and more divinity than all his bishops.” 106
make no reply.
106 This anecdote is related by Seward, vol. iv. p. 54.
Lord Shaftesbury, standing near the bishops' A.D. 1675. bench one day, when he spoke long in this debate, overheard one of the bishops saying to another, Repartee
of Lord "I wonder when he will have done preaching ?” Shaftes
bury's. He immediately turned round and replied, “When I am made a bishop, my lord;” and then proceeded in his speech to the house.
Notwithstanding a proviso was obtained by the Further country lords for preserving the freedom of de- the bill. bates and votes in parliament, an objection was still made to the bill by the Earl of Bolingbroke, that a restraint was laid even upon members of parliament out of doors; and that the oath took away all private converse upon any public parliamentary affairs even with one another.
Upon this, Lord Shaftesbury presently drew up some words for preserving the rights, privileges, and freedoms which men enjoyed by the law established. He was supported by many others in his motion; but was strongly opposed by the courtiers, who plainly declared that they designed by the bill to prevent caballing, and to hinder parliament men from consulting with persons in public offices, either of the army, treasury, or navy, about parliamentary business: they
of the nobility.
A.D. 1675. silenced every objection by their majority of
votes. Mean spirit Though there were many worthy persons
among the nobility, who were true lovers of their country and asserters of its liberties, the greater part meanly acted under the influence of the court, and in subservience to the commands of the ministers. Unmindful of the virtues of their ancestors, their only emulation was to acquire wealth or excel in luxury; and they were contented to load themselves with chains, provided these chains were more glittering than those of their fellow-subjects. It was a melancholy presage for the public, when the men whose example was the most likely to be imitated became thus depraved, and when the foremost in
rank were generally the first in corruption. The bill This bill, which would have rendered parliaby the court. ments entirely useless, was so highly agreeable to
the court, that the ministry exerted their utmost strength in its favour. Just before the meeting of parliament, a privy seal was passed for eighty thousand pounds secret-service money. The design of this money was to prepare the two houses to concur in the bill, and it actually secured a majority in each house. But this measure, and
the dangerous tendency of the bill, only served A.D. 1675. to animate the lords in the opposition; who, by their constant and close attendance, and by the strength of their arguments, checked the progress of it in such a manner, that the debates upon it continued for seventeen days.
Dr. Shirley's Appeal.—Lord Shaftesbury's Speech in the Debate.
-Contention between the two Houses—Its effects.—Parliament prorogued for fifteen months. — Pamphlets against Shaftesbury. — Meeting of Parliament. — Lord Shaftesbury contends that the Parliament was dissolved—Is committed to the Tower.
A.D. 1675. The vigorous stand made by the opposition
against this bill, rendered the court still more intent upon succeeding in its scheme; and therefore another privy seal was passed for one hundred and twenty thousand pounds more, for the same service; and every question was carried in spite of the force of argument. But what truth could not do, Lord Shaftesbury effected by his policy.
Having gained time, by the spirit which appeared against the bill, he contrived, before it could be reported from the committee, to raise such a difference between the houses, upon a point of privilege, as rendered their sitting impracticable, and defeated the intentions of the