14 FEBRUARY 1903, Page 11


WITH the recollection still vividly before us of the recent application of the Closure as a means of carrying the post important Bill of last Session, it is interesting to compare the demeanour of the House of Commons on that occasion with the violent scene which took place two hundred and seventy-five years ago, when Charles I. attempted to " gag " the House by compelling its adjournment in obedience to his Royal command. The following extracts are taken from an hitherto unpublished diary of Charles's third Parliament, best remembered for passing the Petition of Right. The manuscript is prefaced by a political pamphlet in the form of an open letter addressed to the House of Commons "by one unknowne," appealing for freedom of speech and protesting against favouritism and other abuses. The writer is not as yet identified; his record differs from the collected papers in the British Museum (Harleian MSS. 6,800) in forming a con- Onions diary, written by one hand throughout, though here and there almost identical passages are to be found.

Although the expression describing the House as "the first assembly of gentlemen in Europe" has become the hackneyed phrase of the faudator temporis acti, one may reasonably predict that the dignity of the Chair is not likely to be compromised again by "a great abundance of teares " such as were shed by Mr. Speaker Finch on "Monday the 2" of Marche, 1628 [i.e., 1629], being the last day of the Assembly in pliami." "As Boone as prayer was ended, the Speaker went into the chair* & delivered the King's comaund for the adjouninf of the house till Twesday senight followinge. The house retorned him answeare that it was not the office of the Speaker to delyver any such comaund unto them, But for the adjoumemi of the house, it properlie belonged unto themselves, and after they had setled some things they thought convenient to be spoken of, they would satisfie the Binge. The Speaker told them he had an expresse comaund from the kinge so aoone as he bad discharged & delivered his message to anise, & upon that he left the Chaire, but was by force drawne to it againe by Mr. Hollis, Bonne to the Earle of Clare, & Mr. Valentine & others; Mr. Hollys notwithstand- ing the endeavors of Sr Thomas Edmonds & other privie Councellors to free the Speaker, sweare a great oath he should sett still till it pleased them to rise." While the Speaker was held thus Sir John Eliot "began in a Rethori- call oracon to enveigh agi the lord ThreasUrer " (Bucking- ham's successor, Weston), of whom he said that "he would proove him to be the great enemy of the comon wealth, and that be had traced him in all his accons, and withall, if his fortune were ever againe to meets in this honor.'" assembly, he protested as be was agent., where he now left, he would there then begin. Againe the Remonstrance, beinge refused by the Speaker & the Clerke, was restored to his [Sir John Eliot's] hands, & by him read. The house required the Speaker to putt the busines in hand to the question; which the Speaker agayne denyinge & urginge the King's comaund, was checkt by Mr. Seldon who told him he had ever loved his person well, but he could not chuse but blame him now, that he, 'singe the servi of the house should refuse their comaund under any sailor The Speaker w'h abundance of tearea answered, will not say "I will not," but "I dare not," ' say- Inge they would comaund his ruyne therein; that he had bene their faithfull serv' & would gladly sacrifice his life for the weale of his Country, but he durst not sinne against the expresse comaundem, of his soveraigne. Yett notwith- standinge his extremitie of weepinge and supplicatory oracons queantly eloquent, Sir Peter Hayman, a gent. of his owne country, told him he was sorry he was a kinsman, disgrace of his country, & blott of an noble family and that fOr hill parts, since he would not be perswaded to doe his oldie, thought it fitt he should be called to the Barre & a new Speaker chosen. They required Mr. Hollys to reade certen Articles as the protestacons of the house, which were joyntly, as they were read, allowed with a lowde voyce by the whole h'une." Sir John Eliot made another speech, and was followed by his supporter Seldon (whose name is familiar on the wall of the Temple Church, where he was buried). The diarist then continues:1:—. The Singe hearinge that the 1aonse cow__ _

bynewed to sett notwithstandinge his comaunda for the adjourninge of the house, sent a messinger for the serjeant with the mace, which beings taken from the table, there can be no further proceedings, but the serjeant was by the house stayed, & the key of the doors taken from him and geven to a gent. of the house to keepe. The Kinge sent one James Maxwell, one of the Bedchamber (whome the comons name to be a Screechowle) for the dissolucon of the pliatat with his black rodd, but beings informed that neither he nor his message would be receaved by the house, he grewe into much rage, & sent for the Captaine of the penconers & guard to force the Doors, but the risings of the house prevented the blond that might there have bone spilt."

Though the days are past when violence thwarted the officers of the Crown, and the Speaker was reduced to " extremitie of weepinge," yet this practical age expresses less gentle reverence for other things than expediency. It is seldom nowadays that the House hears words of such simple dignity as these from "The Lo: Keeper's paraphraise on the King's Speech." Sir T. Coventry said: "Lett me but add & observe God's mercy & goodnes towards this Land above others. The Current of Warre bath overwhelmed other Churches & Countryes, but God bath hitherto restrained it from us " ; or the Speaker's words in reply to the King's Speech : "The Unions of hearts,

is a greatnes beyond that of the kingdome to which you are heire, et penitus tote divisos [orbe] Britannos is a name of advantage to this Island if the division be not amongst our- selves, which the God of unitie for his mercie's sake forbid, and so knitt our hearts in unitie one with an other, and all of us in dutie & loyaltie to your Mat", that this renowned Island perish not through our distraccons, but may for ever flourish & be like the Jerusalem of God where his name may be for ever honored."

The passage of the Education Bill showed the honourable respect which the Upper and Lower Houses entertain to-day for each other's work, but they are not likely ever again to speak of themselves in such graceful terms as these, taken from a speech of Sir Dudley Diggs "in the behalfe of the Comons " at the conference of both Houses, " xxvth die Aprilis " "It is manifest in generall (God be thanked for it), there is a great concurrency of affeccon unto the same end in both houses & such a good harmony that I entreat yr lord' leave to borrowe a comparison from nature or naturall philosophie ; as twos Lutes well strange & tuned brought togeather, if one be plaid upon, little strawes or sticks will stirre upon Us' other though it lye still, so though we have no powre to reply, yett theis things said & proposed cannot but worke in our hearts."

Clergymen who mingled in politics were assailed then as now. And when "Mr. Pimme " inveighed against Dr. Montagu one can understand his rancour better than the misrepresentation of the Church's objects in these days, for Montagu had preached the divine right of the King to disregard the Constitution, and was rewarded by Charles with a bishopric. Pym thus accused him, together with " temporizing° Mr. Manwering," of deceitfully sowing discord between a good Sovereign and his dutiful people :— " What could a man have done worse ? For thereby he did as much as in him lay violently to breake in peeces that cord, to wrest in sunder that chaine, web Hacks & unites the heart & affeccons of the Prince & people together: verily they that shall goe about thus to seduce or corrupt a Prince, deserve to be bated of all men as much as he that attempts to poison a pnblique spring or fountains whereof all drincke."

The Order of Baronets, which is now so numerously repre- sented in the House, was spoken of in 1628 in terms which would have thrown Sir Vavasour Firebrace into a mortal fit. Disraeli's worthy man longed to see his Order holding a Chapter at Westminster in their dark-green dresses as eguites atsrati, with their pennons, plumes, and coronets of two balls. Bat when they bad only been established for sixteen years, there was a Motion in Parliament to petition for the abolishing of " baronetts, because this news degree is offensive unto the

nobillitie of this Realms and to the gentry because some of them are, and many of them may be in tyme to come, meane in birth, poore in estate, and of smale worth and desert."

It is irresistible to quote in conclusion the following speech upon the disastrous expedition of Buckingham to the Ile de Rise

, in 1627:—" I will not instance nowe the manifestacon that was made for the reason of theis Armes, nor by. them, nor by what manner, nor on what ground it was published, nor what effect it bath wrought, drawinge almost the whole world in league , against us. Nor will I mencon the leavinge of the vynes and . the leavinge of the salts w'h were in our possession, and of a way, as they saide, to apswere much of our expenoes, nor that womler, w• no Alexander nor Oremr ever did, the enrichinge of the enemy by Courtisies when the .soldiers wanted helps." These are the words of that sturdy Radical, Sir John Eliot, in condemnation of the lack of vigour shown in the prosecution of the expedition: they are not the defence of a Government accused of barbarity in war, as one might think in these days.