Page images
PDF
EPUB

Knave, who takes himself to be fo. No body is answerable for more Understanding than God Almighty has given him; and therefore, tho' I fhould be in the wrong, if I tell your Lordships truly and plainly what I am really convinced of, I fhall behave myself like an honeft Man: For it is my Duty, as long as I have the Honour to fit in this Houfe, to hide nothing from your Lordships, which I think may concern His Majefty's Service, your Lordship's Intereft, or the good and quiet of the People of England.

The Queftion, in my Opinion, which now lies before your Lordships, is not what we are to do, but whether at this time we can do any thing as a Parliament, it being very clear to me, that the Parliament is Diffolved: And if in this Opinion I have the misfortune to be mistaken, I have another Misfortune join'd to it, for I defire to maintain the Argument with all the Judges and Lawyers in England, and leave it afterwards to your Lordships to decide, whether I am in the right or no. This, my Lords, I fpeak not out of Arrogance, but in my own Juftification, becaufe if I were not throughly convinc'd, that what I have now to urge, is grounded upon the Fundamental Laws of England, and that the not preffing it at this time, might prove to be of a moft dangerous confequence, both to His Majefty and the whole Nation, I should have been loth to start a Notion, which perhaps may not be very agree

P 2

agreeable to fome People. And yet, my Lords, when I confider where I am, who I now speak to, and what was spoken in this Place about the time of the laft Prorogation, I can hardly believe what I have to fay will be distaftful to your Lordships.

I

I remember very well, how your Lordships were then difpleafed with the Houfe of Commons, and I remember too as well, what Reafons they gave you to be fo. It is not fo long fince, but that I fuppofe your Lordships may call to mind, that after feyeral odd Paffages between us, your Lordships were fo incenfed, that a Motion was made here for an Addrefs to His Majefty, about the Diffolution of this Parliament; and tho' it fail'd of being carried in the Affirmative by two or three Voices, yet this in the Debate was remarkable, That it prevail'd much with the major part of your Lordships that were here prefent, and was only overpower'd by the Proxies of those Lords who never heard the Arguments. What change there has been fince, either in their Behaviour, or in the state of our Affairs, that should make your Lordships change your Opinion, I have not yet heard. And therefore if I can make it appear (as I prefume I fhall) that by Law the Parliament is Diffolved, I prefume your Lordships ought not to be offended at me for it.

I have often wonder'd how it fhould come to pass, that this Houfe of Commons, in which

there

there are fo many honeft, and so many worthy. Gentlemen, fhould yet be lefs refpectful to your Lordships, as certainly they have been, than any House of Commons that were ever chofen in England; and yet if the Matter be a little enquired into, the reafon of it will plainly appear. For, my Lords, the very nature of the Houfe of Commons is changed; they do not think now that they are an Affembly that are to return to their own Homes, and become private Men again, (as by the Laws of the Land, and the Ancient Conftitution of Parliaments they ought to be) but they look upon themselves as a ftanding Senate, and as a number of Men pick'd out to be Legiflators for the rest of their Lives. And if that be the Caufe, my Lords, they have reason to believe themselves our Equals. But, my Lords, it is a dangerous thing to try new Experiments in a Government: Men do not forefee the ill Confequences that muft happen when they go about to alter those effential Parts of it, upon which the whole Frame depends, as now in our Cafe, the Customs and Conftitutions of Parliament: For all Governments are artificial. Things, and every párt of them has a dependance one upon another. And is with them as with Clocks and Watches, if you should put great Wheels in the place of little ones, and little ones in the place of great ones, all the Movement would ftand ftill: So that we cannot alter any one part of a GovernP 3

ment

ment without prejudicing the Motions of the Whole.

If this, my Lords, were well confidered, People would be more cautious, how they went out of the old, honeft, English Way and Method of proceeding. But it is not my business to find Faults, and therefore if your Lordships will give me leave, I fhall go on to fhew you, why, in my Opinion, we are at this time no Parliament. The Ground of this Opinion of mine is taken from the ancient and unqueftionable Statutes of this Realm, and give me leave to tell your Lordships, by the way, That Statutes are not like Women, for they are not one jot the worfe for being Old. The first Statute that I fhall take notice of, is that in the 4th Year of Edward III. Chap. 14. thus fet down in the Printed Book: Item, It is Accorded, That a Parliament fhall be bolden every Tear once, and more often, if need be. Now tho thefe Words are as plain as a Pike-ftaff, and no Man living, that is not a Scholar, could poffibly mistake the meaning of them, yet the Grammarians of thofe Days did make a fhift to explain, that the words if need be, did relate as well to the words every rear once, as to the words more often; and fo by this Grammatical Whimfey of theirs, have made this Statute to fignify juft nothing at all. For this reafon, my Lords, in the 36th Year of the fame King's Reign, a new Act of Parliament was made, in which thofe unfortunate words, if need be,

are

S

1

are left out, and that Act of Parliament relating to Magna Charta and other Statutes, made for the publick Good. Item, For maintainance of thefe Articles and Statutes, and the redress of divers Mifchiefs and Grievances, which daily happen, a Parliament fhall be bolden every Tear; as at other time was ordained by another Statute. Here now, my Lords, there is not left the leaft Colour or Shadow for any Mistake, for it is plainly declared, That the Kings of England muft call a Parliament once within a Year; and the Reasons why we are bound to do fo, are as plainly fet down, namely, For the maintainance of Magna Charta and other Statutes of the fame Importance, and for preventing the Mischiefs and Grievances which daily happen.

The Queftion then remaineth, Whether these Statutes have been fince repealed by any other Statutes or no? The only Statutes I ever heard mentioned for that, are the two Triennial Bills, the one made in the laft King's, and the other in this King's Reign. The Triennial Bill in the last King's Reign was made for the confirmation of the two abovementioned Statutes of Edward III. for Parliaments having been omitted to be called every Year according to those Statutes, a Statute was made in the laft King's Reign to this purpose. That if the King fhould fail of calling a Parliament, according to thefe Statutes of Edw. III. then the third Tear the People should meet of themP 4

felves

« PreviousContinue »