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I have given the following Speech, because it discovers a quaint sort of familiar common sense.
Lord Bristol's Speech on the Test Act.
In the first place, my lords, I beseech you to consider, that this bill, for securing of general fears, is brought up to you from the house of commons, the great representative of the people, and consequently the best judges of the true temper of the nation; a house of commons, surpassing all that ever have been, in the illustrious marks of their duty, loyalty, and affection to their sovereign, both in his person and government : such a house of commons as his majesty ought to consider and cherish always, with such a kind love as is due to a wife, never to be parted with unkindly, or as a mistress, to be turned off when our turn is served by her. My lords, this casual mention of a wife suggests to my thoughts a pursuance of the comparison. I have observed, in the course of my life, that men who have wifes somewhat coquet, that is, a little subject to gallantries, live easier lives with them, and freer from troublesome contentions, than those who have wives of exact rigid virtue : and the reason is clear; for the more gamesome ladies, being conscious of their failings in that essential part, are careful to disguise and repair them by kind and tender compliances with their husbands' humours in all other things; whereas wives severely punctual and exact in the chief matrimonial duty, expect, and even exact, far greater compliances from their husbands, and think themselves as it were privileged by the rigidness of their virtue, to be sometimes troublesome in domestic
affairs; especially, if there be any jealousy in the case. In like manner, my lords, it is not to be much wondered at, if this incomparable house of commons, transcending all that ever were in the grand essentials of duty, loyalty, and affection to their king, should, at some times, be a little troublesome to him in lesser occurrences; especially when once fears and jealousies are on the wing. My lords, I shall not pretend to determine whether there have been any just grounds given by any violent men, or by the unreasonable ambition of any Roman catholics, for such fears and jealousies ; it suffices to exact the necessity of a timely remedy, since they have, indeed, most violently seized and distempered the minds of the major part of his majesty's protestant subjects, which certainly no man conversant in the world can deny. Now, my lords, in popular fears and apprehensions, those usually prove most dangerous, that are raised upon grounds not well understood; and may rightly be resembled to the fatal effects of panic fears in armies, where I have seldom seen great disorders arise from intelligencies brought in by parties and scouts, or by advertisements to generals, but from alarms upon groundless and capricious fears of danger, taken up, we know not either how or why. This, no man of moderate experience in military affairs, but hath found the dangerous effects of one time or other; in giving a stop to which mischief, the skill of great commanders is best seen. In like manner, my lords, this great and judicious assembly of the house of commons, rightly sensible of the dangerous effects which so general a disturb ance of men's minds in the concernments of religion, (how groundless soever) might produce, have applied their care to obviate them by this bill; a bill, in my opinion, as full of moderation towards catholics, as of prudence and security towards the religion of the State. In this bill, my lords, notwithstanding all the alarms of the increase of popery and designs of papists, here is no mention of barring them from a private and modest
exercise of their religion; no banishing them to such a distance from court; no putting in execution of penal laws in force against them. All their precautions are reduced to this one intent, natural to all societies of men, of hindering a lesser opposite party from growing too strong for the greater and more considerable one. And in this just way of prevention, is not the moderation of the house of commons to be admired, that they have restrained it to the sole point of debarring their adver saries from offices and places, from accession of wealth, by favour of the sovereign? And after all, my lords, how few do these sharp trials and tests of this act regard. Only a few such Roman catholics as would fain hold offices and places at the price of hypocrisy and dissimulation of their true sentiments in religion. My lords, however the sentiments of a catholic of the church of Rome, (I still say not of the court of Rome,) may oblige me, upon scruple of conscience in some particulars of this bill, to give my negative to it when it comes to passing, yet, as a member of the protestant parliament, my advice prudentially cannot but go along with the main scope of it, the present circumstances of time and affairs considered, and the necessity of composing the disturbed minds of the people.
(First Earl of Nottingham, Son of Sir Heneage Finch,) Was born 1621, and died 1682. He was member for Oxford, and 1670 appointed attorney general, and afterwards lord keeper and lord chancellor. In this latter office he succeeded Lord Clarendon. He was rather an elegant speaker.
The Lord Keeper Finch's Address to both Houses. My lords, and you, the knights, citizens, and burgesses of the house of commons: The causes of this pre
sent assembly, and the reasons which have moved his majesty to command your attendance upon him at this time, are of the highest importance. The king resolves to enter into terms of the strictest correspondence and endearment with his parliament; to take your counsel in his most weighty affairs; to impart all his cares to you; to acquaint you with all his wants and necessities; to offer you all that can be yet wanting to make you enjoy yourselves; to establish a right understanding between him and his three estates, and between the estates themselves; to redress all your just complaints, and to put all his subjects at ease as far as in him lies, and can consist with the honour and safety of the government. And having made all these advances, he doubts not but you will behave yourselves like those that deserve to be called the king's friends, and that you will put him at ease too. There is no cause why any fears of religion or liberty should divert you; for his majesty hath so often recommended to you the consideration of religion, so very often desired you to assist him in his care and protection of it, that the defender of the faith is become the advocate of it too, and hath left all those without excuse who still remain under any kind of doubts or fears. Again, the care of your civil rights and liberties hath been so much his majesty's, that the more you reflect upon these concerns, the more you will find yourselves obliged to acknowledge his majesty's tenderness of you, and indulgence to you. Search your own annals, the annals of those times you account most happy you will scarce find one year without an example of something more severe, and more extraordinary, than a whole reign hath yet produced. Peruse the histories of foreign nations, and you shall find statues and altars to have been erected to the memories of those princes whose best virtues never arrived to half that moderation which we live to see and enjoy. No king did ever meet a parliament with juster cause of confidence in their affections; and therefore his majesty will not suffer him
self to doubt, but relies firmly upon it, that you never will forsake him when he is under any kind of difficulties. He doth assure himself that you will now think fit to provide for his honour and your own safety, by :helping him to pay some part of his debts, and to make his navy as great and as considerable as it ought to be; for the greatness of the king is the greatness and safety of his people. The springs and rivers which pay tribute to the ocean, do not lessen, but preserve themselves by that contribution. It is impossible that those affections that piety and allegiance first planted, which persecution could not abate, which the gracious influences of his majesty's happy government have hitherto encreased, should now appear to wither and decay. But then the best indication of the heart is by the hand; and because it is of infinite moment to the king's affairs that there should be a chearful concurrence to his supplies, then let hand and heart both join in the oblation, for that will make it a sacrifice well pleasing indeed.
My lords and gentlemen: The happiness of this present age, and the fate and fortune of the next, too, is very much in your hands; and at this time all that you would desire to settle and improve, all that you would wish to secure and transmit to your posterities, may now be accomplished. Would you raise the due estimation and reverence of the church of England to its just height? Would you provide for the safety and establishment of it? Do there want any laws to secure the peace and quiet of the state? Would you enrich and adorn this kingdom by providing for the extent and improvement of trade, by introducing new and useful manufactures, and by encouraging those we have already? Would you prevent all frauds and perjuries, all delays and abuses in the administration of justice? Would you preserve a famous city from being depopulated by the suburbs? Would you restrain the excess of those new buildings which begin to swarm with inhabitants unknown? All your petitions of this kind will be grateful VOL. I.