London: volume 2

Knight, Charles.


XXXI.-The House of Commons:--No. 2. (Continued from No. XXX,)

XXXI.-The House of Commons:--No. 2. (Continued from No. XXX,)




The Scottish Solomon, as we have seen, was able in some sort to keep up to the end of his reign the same almost absolute authority over the which had been exercised by Elizabeth; indeed he asserted the subjection of that assembly to the crown in louder and more comprehensive words than had ever been employed by his more politic predecessor, and he probably thought that in so doing he strengthened the royal prerogative as much as he elevated and extended it. But the bow, in being so far bent, was only the nearer breaking. James was not an Elizabeth: still less was the age of James that of Elizabeth. It may be more than doubted if all the talent--and policy of that great princess, aided by old authority and the prestige of her glorious name, could have much .longer kept back the tide of democratic power and pretension that had been rising ever since the Reformation. The violent methods which James took to repress it only exhausted the strength of the crown, and at the same time infuriated the gathering force which he vainly attempted to subdue. We know how it came down like a great flood upon his predecessor; overwhelming and sweeping away him and his throne together, and whatever else would have opposed its


victorious course. Charles I. began by treating his parliament much in the style his father had been accustomed to do. In the beginning of , he committed members of the , Sir John Eliot and Sir Dudley Digges, to the Tower, for certain expressions they were said to have used at a late conference with the Lords. But the matter was immediately taken up with spirit by the Commons, who-resolved that they would not proceed in any other business till they were righted in their liberties; and the result was that the imprisoned members were set at large after a few days' detention; on which the House at once and unanimously resolved that neither of them had exceeded his commission in anything which he had spoken at the conference. An ominous commencement of the new contest between prerogative and the popular power! Nor did Charles gain more in the long-run by his next attempt, however successful it seemed to be for the moment. Immediately after the dissolution of the parliament, in , a number of the most conspicuous of the opposition members, Eliot, Holles, Selden, and others, were committed to prison; when they were brought up by writ of habeas corpus before the Court of King's Bench, and demanded to be discharged or admitted to bail, Charles withdrew them from the protection of the judges, and consigned them all to the Lieutenant of the Tower, prohibiting him from allowing them to appear in court; and criminal informations were afterwards filed against of them, Eliot, Denzil Holles, and Benjamin Valentine, upon which judgment was given that all should be imprisoned during the royal pleasure, and that Eliot should be fined in , Holles in a , and Valentine in . Long, another of the members who had been taken up, was prosecuted in the Star Chamber, and fined . Eliot, the chief of this band of martyrs, died in the Tower, after an imprisonment of years; and in the hush of the reign of terror all resistance to the royal will might seem to be at an end. But the spirit of freedom was neither dead nor asleep, though the doors of Chapel were kept locked, and its voice was no longer heard from that constitutional arena; after a space of years it was found necessary to summon another parliament; and as soon as the new assembled, in , it took up the subject of the treatment of Eliot and his associates. This was dismissed before it had sat a month; and the very day after of its members, Sir Henry Bellasye and Sir John Hotham, were committed to the Fleet, and a , Mr. Crewe, to the Tower. But it was followed by another, which met the same year, and which, continuing to sit for more than a dozen years, did, or undid, the work of almost a dozen centuries, not separating till it had struck down both the crown and the head that wore it, and sent all the coronets and mitres in the land tumbling after them, making itself King, Lords, and Commons all in , or something mightier than all united had ever been before. But even before the Long Parliament assumed the attitude of sovereignty, it passed a series of resolutions, on the and , declaring the issuing of the warrants on which Holles and the others had been compelled to appear before the Privy Council--the committing of those members to prison--the searching and sealing of their chambers, studies, and papers-and the exhibiting of the informations against them, to be breaches of privilege; and it committed the person who had searched


Eliot's trunks and papers to the Tower. Nay, in the less violent times that succeeded the Restoration, and after nearly years had passed, the , on the , resolved that the judgment given in the King's Bench against Eliot, Holles, and Valentine, was

all illegal judgment, and against the freedom of privilege of parliament;

and on the following the Lords assented to this resolution.

But the last and boldest attempt to exercise the prerogative, thus at length quietly inurned, had been made on the memorable , when Charles I. came down in person to seize the members-Holles, Hazlerig, Pym, Hampden, and Strode-who, along with Lord Kimbolton, had been the day before impeached of high treason by the Attorney-General, in name of the King, at the bar of the . When the Lords declined to order the accused persons to be taken into custody, his Majesty sent a sergeant-at-arms to the Commons, who, having, after he had laid aside the mace he carried, been called in to the bar, required the members of the Speaker, that he might arrest them of high treason. This was on Monday, the . The Speaker, by command of the House, addressing the members after the other, enjoined them to be careful to give their attendance from day to day till the House should take further order; and it was at the same time ordered that on the morrow morning at o'clock the House should resolve itself into a grand committee, to take the King's message into consideration. Before the House broke up, also, it was directed that Sir William Killigrew and the other persons who were stated to have sealed up the studies and doors of the members should be apprehended by the sergeant-at-arms, and detained in his custody till the House should further determine. It had been ordered before the King's messenger appeared that the sergeant-at-arms should be authorised to break open the doors, trunks, &c., which the House was informed these persons were sealing up.

On the next day, Tuesday, the members had come into the House after dinner, and had just taken their places, when

the House,

says Rushworth,

was informed by


Captain Langrish, lately an officer in arms in France, that he came from among the officers and soldiers at


, and, understanding by them that his Majesty was coming with a guard of military men, commanders and soldiers, to the

House of Commons

, he passed by them with some difficulty, to get to the House before them; and sent in word how near the said officers and soldiers were come.

Curiously corroborative and illustrative of this account is what is related by Lilly, the astrologer:--

It was my fortune that very day to dine in


, and in that room where the halberts newly brought from the Tower were lodged for the use of such as attended the King to the

House of Commons

. Sir Peter Wych, ere we had fully dined, came into the room I was in, and brake open the chests wherein the arms were, which frighted us all that were there; however,


of our company got out of doors, and presently informed some members that the King was preparing to come into the House, else, I believe, all those members, or some of them, would have been taken in the House. All that I could do further was presently to be gone. But it happened also, the same day, that some of my neighbours were at the court of guard at


, unto whom I related the King's present design, and conjured them to defend the

parliament and members thereof, in whose well or ill doing consisted our happiness or misfortune: they promised assistance, if need were; and I believe would have stoutly stood to it for defence of the parliament or members thereof.

Sir Philip Warwick affirms that the King's intention of coming to the House was betrayed by

that busy stateswoman the Countess of Carlisle, who had now changed her gallant from Strafford to Mr. Pym, and was become such a shesaint that she frequented their sermons and took notes.

Pym, therefore, was no doubt the

certain member of the House

who, according to Rushworth, had

private intimation from the Countess of Carlisle, sister to the Earl of Northumberland, that endeavours would be used this day to apprehend the



and upon whose information the were required by the House to depart forthwith,

to avoid combustion in the House.

To this command all yielded ready obedience, except only Mr. Strode, who

was obstinate, till Sir Walter Earle, his ancient acquaintance, pulled him out by force, the King being at that time entering into the

New Palace Yard

, in



[n.84.1]  In a few minutes more the King was actually in the House.

As his Majesty came through



continues Rushworth,

the commanders, reformadoes, &c., that attended him, made a lane on both sides of the Hall, through which his Majesty passed, and came up the stairs to the House of Cornmons, and stood before the guard of pensioners and halberteers, who also attended the King's person; and, the door of the

House of Commons

being thrown open, his Majesty entered the House; and as he passed up towards the chair he cast his eye on the right hand, where Mr. Pym used to sit; but his Majesty, not seeing him there (knowing him well), went up to the chair, and said,

By your leave, Mr. Speaker, I must borrow your chair a little;

whereupon the Speaker came out of the chair, and his Majesty stepped up into it.

Clarendon's account is, that,

in the afternoon, the King, attended only by his own usual guard, and some few gentlemen who put themselves into their company in the way, came to the

House of Commons

; and, commanding all his attendants to wait at the door, and give offence to no man, himself, with his nephew, the Prince Elector, went into the House, to the great amazement of all.

This nephew was Charles, the Elector Palatine, the elder brother of Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice; but it is remarkable, that, if he actually accompanied his uncle into the House, the circumstance should not be mentioned by Rushworth, who, sitting at the table in the execution of his office of assistant clerk, had the best opportunity of seeing all that passed, and has evidently been anxious to make his relation as complete as possible. He goes on to inform us that, after Charles

had stood in the chair awhile, casting his eye upon the members as they stood

up uncovered, but could not discern any of the


members to be there-nor, indeed, were they easy to be discerned, had they been there, among so many bare faces all standing up together

--he addressed a short speech to the House, in which he told them that he was sorry for this occasion of coming to them, but that in case of treason no person had privilege, and he was therefore come to know if any of the persons accused were here, for have them he must, wheresoever he might find them.


added he,

since I see all the birds are flown, I do expect from you that you shall send them unto me as soon as they return hither.

And after a few more such ineffectual sentences he came down. But it appears to have been before he commenced this formal oration that, while he was still looking about the House, he asked the Speaker, who was standing on the floor beside the chair, whether any of the members were in the House, whether he saw any of them, and where they were; to which series of questions the Speaker, Lenthall, falling on his knee, answered, that he had neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, in that place, but as the House was pleased to direct him, whose servant he was there; and humbly begged his Majesty's pardon that he could give no other answer.

The King,

Rushworth proceeds,

having concluded his speech, went out of the House again, which was in great disorder; and many members cried out aloud, so as he might hear them,

Privilege! Privilege!

and forthwith adjourned till the next day at


of the clock.

A curious anecdote is added, in which the writer himself figures:--that same evening his Majesty sent the usher of the House of Peers down to the for Rushworth, whom he had observed taking down his speech in characters, or short-hand, at the clerk's table; and when the faithful chronicler of these transactions was brought to him he commanded him to give him a copy of the speech. Rushworth humbly represented the danger he might incur by reporting to his Majesty anything that had been spoken in the House; but Charles smartly replied,

I do not ask you to tell me what was said by any member of the House, but what I said myself.


continues the account,

he readily gave obedience to his Majesty's command, and in his Majesty's presence, in the room called the Jewel House, he transcribed his Majesty's speech out of his characters, his Majesty staying in the room all the while; and then and there presented the same to the King, which his Majesty was pleased to command to be sent speedily to the press, and the next morning it came forth in print.

We cannot further pursue in detail the history of this perhaps the most momentous event of which Chapel ever was the scene. It is said that when Charles returned to with the news of the failure of his attempt the Queen fell into a rage and called him poltroon. On the next day, Wednesday, the , the Commons resolved, that, whereas his Majesty did the day before come to the House,

attended with a great multitude of men armed in a warlike manner with halberts, swords, and pistols, who came up to the very door of the House, and placed themselves there, and in other places and passages near to the House, to the great terror and disturbance of the members thereof then sitting,

the same was

a high breach of the rights and privileges of parliament,

and that the House could sit no longer without a full vindication thereof, and a sufficient guard wherein they might confide. This same morning Charles had


gone to the City, and, presenting himself in the , where the Common Council were assembled to meet him, declared that he was come to demand the accused members, who, he believed, were

shrowded in the City.

But, although he added sundry gracious assurances, and was sumptuously entertained at dinner by of the sheriffs, whom, being of the , Clarendon tells us, the that was thought the least inclined to his service, he thought to flatter by inviting himself to his house on this occasion, he could obtain no intelligence as to the persons of whom he was in quest. The members had indeed be taken themselves to what Clarendon calls

their stronghold, the City;

and it was very well known where they were-

all together in


house in

Coleman Street


in the close neighbourhood of Merchant Tailors' Hall, where a Committee of the sat for several days taking evidence on the subject of his Majesty's coming to the House; but they were as safe there from Charles and his officers as if all London had been an army of protection around them. When the House, which had adjourned on the , met again on Tuesday, the , the accused members were brought by water from their lodgings in the City about o'clock in the afternoon, guarded by the sheriffs and trainbands of London and to the number of in armed boats, while many thousands of spectators accompanied the procession along the banks of the river, making the air ring with their exulting clamours; and a body of horsemen from Buckinghamshire received them at their landing. Some of the people, Clarendon records, as they passed by , asked, with much contempt, what was become of the King and his cavaliers, and whither he was gone? Charles had the day before, about o'clock in the afternoon, left that palace with his wife and children, and fled to Hampton Court--from which after a few weeks he withdrew to York, there to commence his preparations for coercing the parliament by force of arms. In the following summer the civil war broke out, that, with some intermissions, kept England flowing with blood for years; nor did the unhappy monarch ever see either London or again till he was brought back a captive to St. James's, on the , to be put to death in front of the Banqueting House at days after.

In the tumultuous times that followed this inauspicious visit of Charles I., the Commons were repeatedly obliged to submit to the repetition, with improvements, of his violent and armed assault. In the army forced them to expel, or suspend, as it was phrased, obnoxious individuals of their number-Denzil Holles and the other leaders of the Presbyterian party-by merely approaching the capital and threatening the employment of force. As Holles himself has said, in his passionate and prolix relation:--



members must out. The

House of Commons

will not do it; Mr. Joyce and his agitators shall. For this Sir Thomas Fairfax takes up his quarters at Uxbridge; some of his forces advance within




miles of


; he sends his warrants for provisions into the very suburbs; a party of horse is commanded to be ready at a rendezvous to march up to the parliament. Then here is the case of the


members; if they stay, a violence shall be offered to the House; the members shall be pulled out by the ears; and then. farewell this and all future parliaments.

Then about a month after, on Monday,


the , came the actual attack upon the House by the apprentices from the city of London, in the interest of the Presbyterians, who, after having forced the trembling legislature to pass an act about the militia such as they desired, becoming mixed, as the evening grew late, with soldiers and other idlers,

then would make the Houses,

says Holles,

do this and the other thing,vote the King's coming to London, the calling in of the


members, and I know not what else; and would not suffer the parliament-men, either of the


House or the other, to stir till all was voted and passed which they desired; keeping them there till, I think,


of the clock at night.

The next day the Speaker, Lenthall, and; most of the Independent members fled to the army; with which they remained till Fairfax a few days after brought them all back with him, and, marching direct to the House, replaced Lenthall in the Speaker's chair, quietly turning out Mr. Henry Pelham, whom the- Presbyterians during their brief ascendency had chosen in his room. But the sharpest purification of all was that famous administered on the and , in the following year, , by Colonel Pride, who, the House having been surrounded by a regiment of horse and another of foot, took his place in the lobby, with a list of the members in his hand, and Lord Grey by his side to point out their persons; when nearly a of the Presbyterian members were taken into custody as they passed out, of whom about a were sent to prison and the rest turned adrift, with orders from their armed masters never again to show their faces in Chapel. Then, last of all, after the once mighty Long Parliament had been reduced to a


of about individuals, came Cromwell himself, and fairly kicked it out of existence in the most singular style. The Lord General had been engaged in deliberating on the measures to be taken for settling the Commonwealth with the principal officers of the army and other friends at on the morning of Wednesday, the , when Colonel Ingoldsby arrived in haste with the information that the Commons were on the point of passing the act for their dissolution, which had been for some time under discussion, in such a form as, besides unduly prolonging their own authority, would throw open the doors of the next Parliament to the interests which the military power had been employing all its late efforts to depress and destroy. Cromwell instantly put himself at the head of a party of soldiers, and marched down to Palace-yard. Leaving the soldiers in the lobby, he entered the House, and sat for some time without interrupting the debate. At length, when the Speaker was about to put the question, he whispered to Harrison,

This is the time; I must do it,

and, taking off his hat, rose and proceeded to address the House. According to account, his demeanour was for a while calm and his language moderate; but he gradually waxed warm and violent.

He loaded the parliament,

says Ludlow,

with the vilest reproaches, charging them not to have a heart to do anything for the public good, to have espoused the corrupt interest of Presbytery and the lawyers, who were the supporters of tyranny and oppression, accusing them of an intention to perpetuate themselves in power had they not been forced to the passing of this act (the act for their dissolution), which he affirmed they designed never to observe, and thereupon, told them that the Lord had done with them, and had chosen other instruments for the carrying on

his work that were more worthy. This he spoke with so much passion and discomposure of mind as if he had been distracted.

Then he seems to have sat down or paused; on which

Sir Peter Wentworth,

continues Ludlow,

stood up to answer him, and said that this was the


time that ever he had heard such unbecoming language given to the parliament, and that it was the more horrid in that it came from their servant, and their servant whom they had so highly trusted and obliged; but, as he was going on, the General stepped into the midst of the House, where, continuing his distracted language, he said,

Come, come, I will put an end to your prating:

then, walking up and down the House like a madman, and kicking the ground with his feet, he cried out,

You are no parliament; I say you are no parliament; I will put an end to your sitting; Call them in, call them in!

Whereupon the serjeant attending the parliament opened the doors, and Lieutenant-Colonel Worsley, with


files of musqueteers, entered the House.

This appears to be a more probable account than that given by Whitelock, who says that Cromwell, having reached the House,

led a file of musqueteers in with him; the rest he placed at the door of the House and in the lobby before it: in this manner entering the House, he in a furious manner bid the Speaker leave his chair, told the House that they had sat long enough, unless they had done more good,

&c. Other relations of this extraordinary scene concur with that of Ludlow in making the bold senate-crusher to have entered the House alone, and to have both sat for some time and delivered his speech before he called in the soldiers. Harrison, in his speech on the , describes the musqueteers as having come in

with their hats on their heads, and their guns loaden with bullets.

When they entered, Sir Harry Vane said aloud from his place, but probably without rising,

This is not honest; yea, it is against morality and common honesty.

Cromwell doubtless thought the moment singularly chosen for such wise saws, and that neither common honesty nor common-place had anything to do with the business in hand; but he satisfied himself with answering his old friend and brother saint in the style familiar to both of them, crying out with a loud voice,

O Sir Harry Vane, Sir Harry Vane! the Lord deliver me from Sir Harry Vane!

Then turning and pointing to member who has had the luck to escape having his name recorded, he called out,

There sits a drunkard!

next darting his eyes upon poor Sir Peter Wentworth and Henry Martin, he denounced them as a pair of libertines by a very plain epithet; others he called corrupt and unjust men, and scandals to the profession of the gospel; and, telling the whole pack of them that it was not fit they should sit as a parliament any longer, desired them to go away. He began his application of actual force with the mace that lay on the table. before the Speaker :--

What shall we do with this bauble?

he exclaimed:


he added, calling to of the soldiers,

take it away.

Then, when he had

brought all into this disorder,

continues Ludlow,

Major-General Harrison went to the Speaker [still our old friend Lenthall] as he sat in the chair, and told him that, seeing things were reduced to this pass, it would not be convenient for him to remain there. The Speaker answered that he would not come down unless he were forced.


said Harrison,

I will lend you my hand;

and, thereupon putting his hand within his, the Speaker

came down.

[n.89.1]  Cromwell then spoke again, and, addressing himself to the general body of the members, of whom there were present between and a , exclaimed,

It's you that have forced me to this; for I have sought the Lord night and day, that he would rather slay me than put me upon the doing of this work.

Here Alderman Allen would have persuaded him to proceed no further, telling him that, if he would only order the soldiers to retire and the mace to be brought back, everything would go on as before; which may let us see the sort of notion the aldermen of that age had of the portentous phenomenon they had got among them. Cromwell, cutting short his smooth-tongued adviser,

charged him with an account of some

hundred thousand pounds

, for which he threatened to question him, he having been long treasurer for the army, and in a rage committed him to the custody of


of the musqueteers.

Whitelock intimates that several members rose to address the House; but Cromwell, he adds,

would suffer none to speak but himself; which he did with so much arrogance in himself, and reproach to his fellow-members, that some of his privadoes were ashamed of it. But he and his officers and party would have it so; and among all the parliament-men, of whom many wore swords, and would sometimes brag high, not


man offered to draw his sword against Cromwell, or to make the least resistance against him, but all of them tamely departed the House.

Ludlow's more detailed relation informs us that Cromwell, in the end,

ordered the guard to see the House cleared of all the members, and then seized upon the records that were there and at Mr. Scobell's house. After which he went to the clerk, and, snatching the act of dissolution, which was ready to pass, out of his hand, he put it under his cloak, and, having commanded the doors to be locked up, went away to



Whitelock expressly mentions that he stayed to see all the members out, and was himself the last that left the House. It is said that the next day a paper was


posted by somebody on the locked door, with the words,

This House to be let, now unfurnished.

[n.90.1]  Meanwhile the strange event had not passed without its regular official record: Scobell, the clerk, plying his task unmoved amid the hubbub, like the clock on the tower of a public building continuing to note the passing time and striking the hour while the surrounding walls are enveloped in flames, had quietly written down in the Journal before Cromwell took possession of it:--

20th April, 1653

. This day his Excellency the Lord General dissolved this parliament.

This entry, however, was ordered to be expunged by the restored Rump, on the ; on which occasion Scobell, being brought to the bar,


says the Journal,

that it was his own handwriting, and that he did it without direction of any person whatsoever.

The Rump, of course, maintained that it was not dissolved at all-that, although thus shattered to pieces and scattered to the winds, it was still a proper legal parliament; and in fact, years afterwards, on the , when Cromwell no longer lived, they assembled again to the number of about , with old Lenthall at their head, and resumed their function of legislation. But, after sitting about months, they were, on the , again suppressed by Lambert and his military associates; and, although they were once more restored to the possession of the House on the , they were compelled by Monk, on the thereafter, to admit among them the Presbyterian members that had been excluded in ; and on the , this fag end of the celebrated Long Parliament was at length fairly and for ever annihilated by its own act. The Long Parliament had existed in form or another from the , and its history is that of the great struggle between the crown and the , between prerogative and popular rights, which has been styled the Grand Rebellion, from its commencement almost to its close.

Charles II. was recalled by acclamation, and seated on the


him; the effects of which were severely felt during his reign and that of his successor, till a new revolution, at the end of years, placed the crown once more in the hands of the people, and enabled them, grown wiser than on the former occasion, to bestow it with such conditions and restrictions as were deemed sufficient to secure to the that place in the constitution which for at least years before, or ever since the time of James I., it had decidedly manifested its determination to attain, and without the concession of which it was evident there could now be neither liberty nor peace in the country. It may appear as if the efforts of the during the years of the Long Parliament in the assertion of its own privileges and the vindication of the national liberties had all gone for nothing, seeing the ascendency which the crown regained after the Restoration; but a closer view of the matter will convince us that this was far from being the case. The Restoration was a restoration of too much, but by no means of everything, that had existed when the Long Parliament commenced its career. The Grand Rebellion, though it was at last put down, had not been altogether a failure. The ancient royal prerogative had been shaken in some parts by that assault beyond the possibility of repair. In fact, amid all the misgovernment of the reign of Charles II., the rights of the and its true position in the constitution were recognised in a manner in which they never had been in the former days of the monarchy. Attempts were made to manage the parliament, and also to govern without it; but, when it was suffered to meet, its debates were nearly as free as they are at present, and took as wide a range as they have ever done since. The Commons for session after session during this reign discussed the question of excluding the heir presumptive to the throne, the King's own brother, and even passed a bill for that purpose. Would any approach to such an interference as that have been endured either by Elizabeth or James I.? Of a truth the day was now gone by when it could be pretended that the House had nothing to do with matters either of Church or State, or with any questions save such as the crown chose to permit it to discuss. And this change, this gain, had been brought about by the Long Parliament and the Grand Rebellion.

Indeed, as we have said, the Revolution of added little if anything to what are commonly called the privileges of the . These, in so far as they have been recognised and acted upon in later times, are almost wholly founded upon precedents older than the Revolution, and mostly upon such as must be considered the legacy of the Long Parliament, or as having incontrovertibly been established through the attitude assumed and the powers exercised by that assembly, although its proceedings are never quoted nor its name breathed by the authorities on the subject. For how else could they have been acquired? To what other period in the history of the Constitution can they be traced? In the obscurity that rests upon the imperfectly recorded transactions of the earliest times of the monarchy, it is indeed possible for ingenious theorymongers to rear out of the mist and ruins any visionary scheme of the Constitution which may best please their fancy; but at any rate this much is demonstrable and certain, that from the middle of the century the , whatever tone might be assumed or principles avowed by individual members, was never once able to make its pretended rights good against the


crown,--nay more, that as a body it never once persisted in the attempt to do so till the year , when it did indeed carry its resistance to the royal domination as far as was possible, but was nevertheless in the end completely foiled and defeated. The facts that establish this position are not a few insulated or selected instances, but the entire stream of our parliamentary history during the period in question. If therefore the had ever, as is pretended, been able to set the crown at defiance in earlier times, it had lost that power for many years before the Long Parliament met; and, if we find the power ever after in existence and constant exercise, it must have been the Long Parliament that at least recovered it from abeyance and secured it from being ever again lost or called in question, The Revolution of itself, indeed, was the legacy of the Grand Rebellion, or rather that, and not the Restoration, was the true completion of the long contest of which what is called the Rebellion was the stage. But for the war, not of mere words but of arms, waged by the parliament against the prerogative in the middle of the century, we should not have had the easy, bloodless settlement of the constitution at its close. And the Revolution of , if it did not enlarge what are properly called the privileges of the , no doubt greatly augmented the real power and importance of that branch of the legislature, were it only by the blow which it struck at the great rival power of the prerogative. If Charles II. no longer ventured to throw the members into prison when they uttered anything that displeased him, as had been done by his father and his grandfather, yet he exercised the right of interfering with the deliberations of the House by dissolutions and prorogations to an extent incompatible with the exercise of any effective control over public affairs by the representatives of the people. The great fundamental principle of the responsibility of the ministers of the crown to parliament had as yet been but ineffectually asserted. In the establishment of this principle, more than in anything else, consisted the popular victory that was gained at the Revolution. And the principle was established mainly by the shock, or rather complete explosion, that was then given to the old notion of divine right in the crown--a notion which what was done at the Restoration -and- years before had rather helped to extend and strengthen. The Revolution, if it was nothing more, was at least emphatically a protest against that absurd and pernicious pretension.

From this date the popular branch of the legislature has continued on the whole to acquire more and more the ascendency in the Constitution, and the war of politics has been chiefly carried on in the . The great days of that House, however, as an arena of debate, scarcely began till towards the close of the long administration of Sir Iobert Walpole, or about the year . At least we have no full or tolerably satisfactory record of the debates before that date. The fierce contests between Walpole and his opponents, Windham, Pulteney, and others, had indeed for some years before this time attracted much attention to the proceedings of the House, and they had been regularly reported every month both in the Gentleman's and the London Magazine, the former of which publications commenced in , the latter in ; but no attempt can be said to have been made to convey more than the substance of the speeches till that department of the Gentleman's Magazine was confided to


Samuel Johnson in . Johnson, indeed, appears to have given his readers more of his own eloquence than of what had actually been uttered in parliament; but still what he did was in all probability only to substitute kind of eloquence for another, a better for a worse, or, it might be, sometimes a worse for a better-and therefore on the whole the speeches written by him, though less true to the letter than those given by his predecessors, may be received as a more living, and as such a truer, representation of the real debates than had ever before been produced. He would not take the trouble, or be guilty of the absurdity, of expending his rhetoric upon the version of a debate or a speech which had not really excited attention by that quality, but, we may suppose, would reserve his strength for occasions on which those who had heard, or heard of, the original oration would look for something more brilliant than usual. But the history of the , considered as a theatre of debate, and viewed in connection with the subject of reporting is far too large to be entered upon now. After what we may call the age of Walpole and Pulteney comes that of the William Pitt and his great compeers-then


that, the most splendid of all, of Burke, and Fox, and North, and the other great orators whose speeches illustrate the period of the war of Colonial Independence, --then that of the younger Pitt, and Sheridan, and the rest, with Burke for a time still among them, and Fox still longer, which was at its brightest at the time of the breaking out of the French Revolution, and which reaches down almost to our own time. It is of the affectations of the philosophism of the day to speak with a sort of contempt of those bygone eras of our parliamentary history as times of mere talk instead of action, when the blaze of eloquence that was kept up in the was offered to the public admiration as a substitute for the whole business of good government. We look upon such a representation of the matter as blatant stupidity or more despicable cant. We believe that that patriotic spirit which is at once the life and moral sense of a nation will never be kept alive, as it never yet has been among any people, savage or civilized, in the direction of whose public affairs the power of eloquence has not a large share; and we are sure that this influence could not be put down without its place being supplied by others far less generous in character and far more dangerous in their effects.

We have thus rapidly traced the gradual rise of the from the humble position which it appears to have originally occupied as a mere convention of delegates from the towns and rural districts assembled by the King when he wanted to lay on a new tax, rather to take his instructions as to its amount and the manner in which it was to be levied than either to dispute or deliberate upon the demand,--through the long period during which it carried on a more or less determined struggle with the Crown and the other House for independence, if not co-ordinate authority-down to the era when, having successfully asserted its theoretical equality with each of those other branches of the legislature, it has come not only to be decidedly the controlling body in the state, but almost, we may say, to have absorbed the whole powers of government. It is worthy of remark, nevertheless, that, while the influence of the as a power in the state has been constantly increasing throughout the last century and a half, what are called the privileges of the House and of its members have been rather undergoing curtailment during that space of time. Now that the House has been placed beyond the reach of attack from either the Lords or the Crown, several of the rights which it formerly claimed and was allowed to exercise have been felt to be no longer necessary for the due performance of its functions, and wherever they have pressed inconveniently upon individuals or the public a disposition has been shown to cut them down-so that now, after having adjusted its position in relation to the other powers of the government, it would seem that the people's House had a controversy of the same kind with the people themselves--a controversy, we may add, in which it is as sure to be the party that shall have to yield as in the nature of things it was certain to be successful in its previous struggles. In so far, however, as this last contest has yet gone, the House has never given up an inch of ground without having made considerable resistance. It was not, for instance, till after a war of many years, and a most furious fight at the end, that the great right of reporting the debates in Parliament was gained by the public. It is little more than a century since nothing that was spoken in the House


was suffered to be printed till after the parliament in which it was spoken had been dissolved; or at least any earlier publication was denounced by the House as a daring act of illegality. On the , the House resolved,

That it is an high indignity to, and a notorious breach of the privilege of, this House, for any newswriter, in Letters or other papers (as Minutes, or under any other denomination), or for any printer or publisher of any printed newspaper of any denomination, to presume to insert in the said Letters or papers, or to give therein any account of, the Debates or other proceedings of this House, or any Committee thereof,

as well during the recess as the sitting of parliament

, and that this House will proceed with the utmost severity against such offenders.

The monthly magazines, notwithstanding, still continued to report the debates, although for some time they took the precaution of indicating the speakers by fictitious appellations, to which they furnished their readers with a key when the House was no longer extant to call them to account. But it was not till the beginning of the year that the debates began to be given to the public day by day as they occurred; and then the attempt gave rise to a contest between the House and the newspapers which occupied the House to the exclusion of all other business for weeks-when a committee was appointed, whose report, when it was read months after, recommending whether it might not be expedient to order that the offending parties should be taken into the custody of the sergeant-at-arms, Mr. Burke aptly compared to the decision of the assembly of mice, who came to a resolution that the cat, to prevent her doing any more mischief, should be tied up, but unfortunately forgot to say how the operation was to be managed. Another still longer contest maintained by the House against the public regarded the privilege which was formerly asserted to belong to members not only of freedom from personal arrest but even from being subjected to actions at law in civil cases, nay of being protected from having such actions brought even against their servants and tenants. These extraordinary claims continued to be upheld and occasionally put in force by the House, till they were finally taken away by statute no longer ago than in the year . But of the most singular contests in which the House ever was involved was that-which it had to wage about the middle of the last century in support of the right it assumed to compel such delinquents as it called to its bar, whether in order to receive judgment, or to be discharged out of custody, to fall down upon their knees and to remain in that degrading attitude while the Speaker was addressing them. In , a Mr. Alexander Murray, brother of Lord Elibank, having incurred the hot displeasure of the House, or of the faction that happened to be in the ascendant, by something he had done, or was charged with having done, at a recent election, it was voted that he should be sent close prisoner to Newgate, and, further, that he should be brought to the bar to receive his sentence on his knees. Horace Walpole has told the story with all gusto in his

Memoirs of the Last


Years of George II.

He entered with an air of confidence, composed of something between a martyr and a coxcomb. The Speaker called out,

Your obeisances! Sir, your obeisances!

and then,

Sir, you must kneel.

He replied,

Sir, I beg to be excused; I never kneel but to God.

The Speaker repeated the command with great warmth. Murray answered,

Sir, I am sorry I cannot comply with your request; I would in anything else.

The Speaker cried,

Sir, I call upon you again to consider of it.

Murray answered,

Sir, when I have committed a crime, I kneel to God for pardon; but I know my own innocence, and cannot kneel to anybody else.

The Speaker ordered the sergeant to take him away and secure him. He was going to reply; the Speaker would not suffer him.

The prisoner having been removed, a warm debate ensued, the Speaker telling them that if a party might behave thus with impunity there was an end of the dignity and power of the House. member proposed that the refractory delinquent should be kept in Newgate without pen, ink, and paper; another hinted that it might be well to send him to the dungeon called Little Ease in the Tower; a would have had an act of parliament passed for the special punishment of such audacious conduct. At last, after naming a Committee to consider the matter, the House adjourned at near o'clock in the morning. This was on the . Murray lay in Newgate till the , when he was brought up by habeas corpus to the King's Bench; but, of the Judges allowing the validity of a commitment by the , he was remanded to prison. But the instant the parliament was prorogued, on the , a number of his friends accompanied the sheriffs to Newgate, and bringing him away conducted him in triumph to his own house. On the , a few days after the parliament had re-assembled, it was again moved and carried after a long debate that Murray should still be brought to receive his sentence on his knees--Mr. Pelham, the prime minister, observing, that, if the House had not all the authority it wished, it ought at least to exert all it had. But a few days after, when the sergeant-at-arms was called in to make his report, he informed the House that the object of their vengeance had absconded. A reward of was then voted for his apprehension; but he was never taken; the exaction of the ceremony of kneeling by the House was attended with considerable awkwardness from this time forward; and at length on the , a standing order (so called with a double appropriateness) was made, that when any person was brought to the bar as a delinquent he should receive the judgment of the House .

The alteration made by that order,

observes Hatsell, with becoming official solemnity,

was suggested by the humanity of the House.


[n.84.1] In a speech made in Richard Cromwell's parliament on the 7th of February, 1659, Hazlerig said:-- The King demanded five members by his Attorney-General. He then came personally to the House, with five hundred men at his heels, and sat in your chair. It pleased God to hide those members. I shall never forget the kindness of that great lady, the Lady Carlisle, that gave timely notice. Yet some of them were in the House after the notice came. It was questioned if, for the safety of the House, they should be gone; but the debate was shortened, and it was thought fit for them in discretion to withdraw. Mr. Hampden and myself, being then in the House, withdrew. Away we went. The King immediately came in, and was in the House before we got to the water. --Burton's Diary, iii. 93. According to this account Hampden and Hazlerig would appear to have been the only two of the five members actually in the House when the news arrived that his Majesty was coming. But Strode at any rate must also have been present. Clarendon's statement, that all the accused members had withdrawn from the House about half an hour before the King came thither, is clearly incorrect.

[n.89.1] But Hazlerig, in his speech on the 7th of February, 1659, gave a different account :-- Our General told us we should sit no longer to cheat the people. The Speaker, a stout man, was not willing to go. He was so noble, that he frowned, and said he would not go out of the chair till he was plucked out; which was quickly done, without much compliment, by two soldiers, and the mace taken. --Burton, iii. 98. In a speech delivered in the same parliament a few days after, a Mr. Reynolds said :-- Persons came to the door. One came in, and sweetly and kindly took your predecessor by the hand, and led him out of the chair. I say, sweetly and gently. But Ludlow's account is corroborated by Whitelock, who says:--The Speaker not stirring from his seat, Colonel Harrison, who sat near the chair, rose up, and took him by the arm, to remove him from his chair, which when the Speaker saw he left his chair..--Memorials, p. 554.

[] They that say, Set not up a King or House of Lords, for God has poured contempt upon them, let me retort upon them, said one of the speakers, Major-General Haines, in the parliament of 1677-8. God has also poured contempt upon a Commonwealth. Was there so much as one drop of blood when it went out? Nay, I am confident it did extinguish with the least noise that ever Commonwealth did.--Burton, iv. 416.

[] That our account of this remarkable affair may be as complete as possible, we add the very curious relation given in the Diary of the Earl of Liecester, the father of Algernon Sidney, as published in the Sydney Papers, edited by R. W. Blencowe, 8vo. Lond. 1825. It contains several particulars not elsewhere noticed, and was no doubt principally derived from the information of Sidney, who, it will be seen, was present. The parliament sitting as usual, and being in debate upon the bill with the amendments, which it was thought. would have been passed that day, the Lord General Cromwell came into the House, clad in plain black clothes and grey worsted stockings, and sate down, as he used to do, in an ordinary place. After a while he rose up, put off his hat, and spake. At the first, and for a good while, he spake to the commendation of the parliament for their pains and care of the public good; but afterwards he changed his style, told them of their injustice, delays of justice, self-interest, and other faults; then he said, Perhaps you think this is not parliamentary language: I confess it is not; neither are you to expect any such from me. Then he put on his hat, went out of his place, and walked up and down the stage or floor in the middest of the House with his hat on his head, and chid them soundly, looking sometimes, and pointing particularly, upon some persons, as Sir R, Whitelock, one of throne of his ancestors, within a few weeks after the Long Parliament thus ceased to exist, and much of the old oppressive power of prerogative was brought back along with the Commissioners of the Great Seal, Sir Henry Vane, to whom he gave very sharp language, though he named them not, but by his gestures it was well known that he meant them. After this he said to Colonel Harrison (who was a member of the House), Call them in. Then Harrison went out, and presently brought in Lieutenant- Colonel Wortley (who commanded the General's own regiment of foot), with five or six files of musqueteers, about twenty or thirty, with their musquets. Then the General, pointing to the Speaker in his chair, said to Harrison, Fetch him down. Harrison went to the Speaker, and spoke to him to come down, but the Speaker sate still and said nothing. Take him down, said the General. Then Harrison went, and pulled the Speaker by the gown, and he came down. It happened that day that Algernon Sidney sate next to the Speaker on the right hand: the General said to Harrison, Put him out; Harrison spake to Sidney to go out, but he said he would not go out, and sate still. The General said again, Put him out; then Harrison and Wortley put their hands upon Sidney's shoulders, as if they would force him to go out: then he rose, and went towards the door. Then the General went to the table where the mace lay, which used to be carried before the Speaker, and said, Take away those baubles. So the soldiers took away the mace, and all the House went out; and at the going out they say the General said to young Sir Henry Vane, calling him by his name, that he might have prevented this extraordinary course, but he was a juggler, and had not so much as common honesty. All being gone out, the door of the House was locked, and the key, with the mace, was carried away, as I heard, by Colonel Otley. The contradictions as to many little points in these various accounts of Ludlow, Whitelock, and Leicester, strikingly show the confusion and bewilderment into which those present were thrown. In the encounter between Cromwell and Vane, for instance, what was said about common honesty was apparently supposed by some of the hearers to have been spoken by the former, while others thought the words proceeded from the latter.

[n.90.1] Several Proceedings in Parliament, No. 186.