Page images
PDF
EPUB

easily be confirmed by a lawful parliament,) or to lay it down for a maxim, that the kings of England, by a particular order of theirs, have power to break all the laws of England when they please.

And my lords, with all the duty we owe to his majesty, it is no disrespect to him to say, that his majesty is bound up by the laws of England : for the great king of heaven and earth, God Almighty himself, is bound to his own decrees; and what is an act of parliament but a decree of the king, made in the most solemn manner it is possible for him to make it; that is, with the consent of the lords and commons. It is plain then in my opinion, that we are no more a parliament; and I humbly conceive your lordships ought to give God thanks for it, since it has thus pleased him by his providence to take you out of a condition wherein you must have been entirely useless to his majesty, to yourselves, and the whole nation. But I do beseech your lordships, if nothing of this I have urged were true, what honourable excuse could be had for our acting again with the house of commons, except we could pretend such an exquisite art of forgetfulness as to avoid calling to mind all that passed between us the last session; and unless we could have also a faculty of teaching the same art to the whole nation, What opinion could they have of us, if it should happen that the very same men, who were so earnest the last session for having the house of commons dissolved when there was no question of their lawful sitting, should be now willing to join with them again, when without question they are dissolved.

Nothing can be more dangerous to a king or a people, than that the laws should be made by an assembly, of which there can be a doubt whether they have a power to make laws or no; and it would be in us inexcusable if we should overlook this danger, since there is for it so easy a remedy which the law requires, and which all the nation longs for. Vol. I.

25

The calling a new parliament it is, that only can put his majesty into a possibility of receiving supplies, that can secure your lordships the honour of sitting in this house like peers, and your being serviceable to your king and country; and that can restore to all the people of England their undoubted rights of choosing men frequent. ly to represent their grievances in parliament; without this, all we can do would be in vain; the nation may languish a while, but must perish at last ; we should become a burthen to ourselves and a prey to our neighbours. My motion therefore to your lordships shall be, that we humbly address ourselves to his majesty, and beg of him for his own sake, as well as for the people's sake, to give us speedily a new parliament, that so we may unani. mously, before it is too late, use our utmost endeavours for his majesty's service, and for the safety, the welfare, and the glory of the English nation,

COLONEL BIRCH.

His Speech on the Bill to exclude the Duke of York,

afterwards James II. from the Succession to the Crown.

Mr. Speaker, Sir, I admire to hear an honourable member make a doubt as to the legality of this bill. Certainly, sir, our ļegislative power is unbounded, and we may offer to the lords, and so to his majesty, what bills we think good. And it can as little be doubted, that the legislative power of the nation, king, lords, and commons, should want a law to make laws, or that any laws should be against what laws they make, otherways they cannot be legally opposed, And as I think it cannot be against law, so

[ocr errors]

neither against conscience, unless it can be made out that we ought in conscience to bring in popery. I should be very glad to hear any arguments to make good what hath been offered about expedients, but I am afraid when they come to be examined to the bottom, they will be found very insufficient, and that we may as well think of catching a lion with a mouse-trap, as to secure ourselves against popery by any laws, without the exclusion bill. Have we not to do with a sort of people that cannot be bound by any law or contract whatsoever? Much less can their words or promises be depended on. Are they not under all the obligations that can be offered from the temptations of this life, as of that to come, not to keep faith with heretics, but to break it when it may tend to the promoting of the catholic cause? And if laws cannot bind other persons, much less will it princes that are of the catholic religion ! Did they ever keep any league or contract that was made with protestants longer than was necessary in order to cut their throats ? What use did the papists make in Ireland of the favours granted them by king Charles I ? Did they not make use of it to the destruction of the protestants by rising up in rebellion, and massacreing 100,000 ? Sir, I see things go hard against popery; I know not what to say to it, but I am afraid that if we should be so infatuated as to let it creep on more and more upon us, and at last let it ascend the throne again, that we shall soon have the same miserable fortune our fore-fathers had in queen Mary's days, and be burnt in Smithfield for our indiscretion.

Sir, we are upon a business of as great importance as ever was debated within these walls : for we must either suppress popery, or be suppressed by it. For although that interest do not look so big as that of the protestants, yet I plainly see that it hath wrought like a mole under ground for a long time, and that it hath eaten into our bowels, and will soon come to the vital parts of the protestant religion, and destroy it too, if great care be not taken, and that speedily. I hear some say that our cares are needless at this time, because the king may outlive the duke; which is as much as to say, there is no need of laws against popery until we see whether we shall have occasion to make use of them or no. But they do not tell us how we should be sure then to obtain them. I must confess, such arguments are so far from weighing with me, as that they increase my fears, because it discovers a strange, easy, careless, indifferent humour among us protestants. Must our lives, liberties, and religion depend upon may-be's ? I hope it is not come to that yet. I am sure it will not consist with the prudence of this assembly to leave it so, but rather to en. deavour to settle this matter upon such a foundation as

a may (with as much probability as human things are ca. pable of) secure us. I am of an opinion that such an engine may be contrived as should give such a whirl to the popish interest, as that it should never rise up against us again. I know of no difficulty but the same which happened to Archimedes-where to fix it. And I am not altogether at a loss for that neither ; for so long as we have a good king, I will not despair. And, sir, I cannot fear any of

, those things that are objected against this bill, that it is against law, and therefore will occasion a civil war. For my part I never will fear a civil war in favour of idolatry, especially when we have gotten a law on our side to defend our religion. Therefore I move you that the bill may be brought in.

a

MR. BOSCAWEN.

Mr. Boscawen's Speech on the same Question.

Mr. Speaker, Have not the papists always proceeded against the protestants with a barbarity surmounting the worst of heathens ? and must we be so mighty careful how we proceed to hinder them from ruling over us, as that we must stumble at every straw, and be afraid of every bush ? a man that is in an house that is on fire, will leap out of a window, rather than be burnt. I do admire how any person that doth know with what treachery and inhumanity the papists behaved themselves in the mas. sacres of Piedmont, Paris, and Ireland ; their cruelties in queen Mary's days, lately on sir Edmundbury Godfrey, and what they had designed against the king, and all of us, can offer any thing to delay, much more to hinder, what is so precisely necessary for the good of the king and kingdom; especially, seeing in this we shall do nothing but what may be justified by many laws and precedents; and if there were none, of which I know there are a great many that are liable to no objection; yet I take it, that the law of nature and self.preservation would afford us sufficient arguments. I think the sun is not more visible at noon-day, than that the papists have a design to extirpate our religion, and that they have done great things in order thereto, even now while we live under the government of a protestant king, by some invisible power that hath strangely acted its part in favour of that interest, in all our councils and resolutions in affairs of greatest importance ; and it is as plain that this is so, because there is a popish successor, and that their interest will never decline as

.

« PreviousContinue »