89. RECORDS OF PARLIAMENT AND TAXES (1604-22)

(A) James I: Proclamation Concerning Elections (1604)

... We do hereby straitly charge and admonish all persons interested in the choice of knights for the shires, first, that the knights for the county be selected out of the principal knights or gentlemen of sufficient ability within that county wherein they are chosen; and, for the burgesses, that choice be made of men of sufficiency and discretion without any partial respects or factious combination.... Next and above all things, considering that one of the main pillars of this estate is the preservation of unity in the profession of sincere religion of Almighty God, we do also admonish that there be great care taken to avoid the choice of any persons either noted for their superstitious blindness one way, or for their turbulent humours other ways; because their disorderly and unquiet spirits will disturb all the discreet and modest proceeding in that greatest and gravest council. Further, we do command that an express care be had that there be not chosen any persons bankrupts or outlawed, but men of known good behaviour and sufficient livelihood, and such as are not only taxed to the payment of subsidies and other like charges, but also have ordinarily paid and satisfied the same ...; next, that all sheriffs be charged that they do not direct any precept for electing and returning of any burgesses to or for any ancient borough-town within their counties being so utterly ruined and decayed that there are not sufficient residents to make such choice, and of whom lawful election may be made; also to charge all cities and boroughs and the inhabitants of the same, that none of them seal any blanks, referring or leaving to any others to insert the names of any citizens or burgesses to serve for any such city or borough, [but that they] do make open and free election according to the law, and set down the names of the persons whom they choose before they seal the certificate. Furthermore, we notify by these presents that all returns and certificates of knights, citizens, and burgesses ought and are to be brought to the chancery, and there to be filed of record. And if any shall be found to be made contrary to this proclamation, the same is to be rejected as unlawful and insufficient, and the city or borough to be fined for the same; and if it be found that they have committed any gross or wilful default and contempt in their election, return, or certificate, that then their liberties according to the law are to be seized into our hands as forfeited. And if any person take upon him the place of a knight, citizen, or burgess, not being duly elected, returned, and sworn according to the laws and statutes in that behalf provided, and according to the purport, effect, and true meaning of this our proclamation, then every person so offending [is] to be fined and imprisoned for the same....

Given at our honour of Hampton Court, the nth day of January.

Rymer, Foedera, XVI, 561 f.

(B) Early Proceedings of the Commons (1604)

[22 March.] ... Mr. Speaker with all submissive reverence to his majesty taking leave, he with the commons departed to their usual place. And there being assembled, the first motion was made by Sir William Fleetwood, one of the knights returned for the county of Buckingham on the behalf of Sir Francis Goodwin, knight, who, upon the first writ of summons directed to the sheriff of Buckingham, was elected the first knight for that shire; but, the return of his election being made, it was refused by the clerk of the crown, quia utlagatus,[1] and because Sir John Fortescue, upon a second writ, was elected and entered in that place. His desire was that this return might be examined and Sir Francis Goodwin received as a member of the house. The house gave way to the motion; and, for a more deliberate and judicial proceeding in a case of privilege so important to the house, ordered that the serjeant, the proper officer of the house, should give warning to the clerk of the crown to appear at the bar at eight o'clock the next morning, and to bring with him all the writs of summons, indentures, and returns of elections for the county of Buckingham made and returned for this parliament; and to give warning also to Sir Francis Goodwin to attend in person, whom their pleasure was to hear ... deliver the state of his own cause and the manner and reasons of the proceeding in the election of the knights of the shire for that county.

This, being a motion tending to matter of privilege, was seconded with another by Mr. Serjeant Shirley, touching an arrest made the 15th of March last, the day of his majesty's solemn entrance through London, and four days before the sitting of the parliament, upon the body of Sir Thomas Shirley, elected one of the burgesses for the borough of Steyning in the county of Sussex, at the suit of one Giles Sympson, a goldsmith, dwelling in Lombard Street, London, by one William Watkins, a serjeant-at-mace and Thomas Aram, his yeoman. And [it was] prayed that the body of the said Sir Thomas might be freed according to the known privilege of the house. Hereupon the house, in affirmation of their own privilege, assented, and ordered that a warrant, according to the ancient form, should be directed under the hand of Mr. Speaker to the clerk of the crown, for the granting of a writ of habeas corpus to bring the body of the said Sir Thomas into the house upon Tuesday next at eight o'clock in the morning....

Sir George Moore, allowing these grave and advised resolutions in point of privilege, for the better advancement thereof and for a more deliberate and due proceeding in these and the like cases best beseeming the gravity and honour of that assembly, moved that a select committee might be appointed to consider of all cases of returns and privileges during the time of parliament. This is an usual motion in the beginning of every parliament.

[23 March.] This day may be called dies juridicus, the first day of business; the other were but of form and ceremony, yet ever usual and necessary in respect of the magnificence and state of such an assembly. Principium a Deo: the beginning was with prayers to God for good success; and such prayers as have been ordinary in former parliaments in the reign of the late queen, and are placed in the front of the Book of Common Prayer, were read by the clerk of the house, to whose place that service anciently appertains. And one other special prayer, fitly conceived for that time and purpose, was read by Mr. Speaker; which was voluntary and not of duty or necessity, though heretofore of late time the like hath been done by other speakers....

After prayers ended and the house settled, with expectation of what should be propounded for the weal of the common subject; Sir Robert Wroth, one of the knights of the shire returned for the county of Essex, moved that matters of most importance might first be handled; and to that purpose offered to the consideration of the house these particulars: viz., (1) confirmation of the Book of Common Prayer; (2) the wardship of men's children, as a burden and servitude to the subjects of this kingdom; (3) the general abuse and grievance of purveyors, and cart-takers, etc.; (4) particular and private patents, commonly called monopolies; (5) dispensations in penal statutes; (6) transportation of ordnance; (7) the writ of quo titulo ingressi, etc., abuses of the exchequer, etc.

This motion for the time passed with silence; and Sir Edward Montague, one of the knights for Northamptonshire, proceedeth in another; expressing three main grievances of his country and praying some care to be had of remedy for them: viz., [1] the burden, vexation, and charge of commissaries' courts; (2) the suspension of some learned and grave ministers for matters of ceremony and for preaching against popish doctrine; (3) depopulations by enclosure.

Sir Thomas Crompton, doctor of the civil law, and the king's advocate, being one of the burgesses returned for the university of Oxford by virtue of a new charter granted by his majesty that now is, with some length of speech examined the circumstances and approveth the general purpose of the former motion.

Another learned and good member of the house, taking occasion as well from Sir Thomas Shirley's case, opened the last sitting-day, as from the course begun in these foresaid motions, prayeth generally a consideration of the honour and privilege of this house; which, he said, ought to be kept sacred and inviolable. And thereof a true member of the body ought to be sensible and careful; but unnatural and strange members could not be so tender of the welfare of the whole. And therefore it were fit to examine whether every one here did hold his place by a lawful and just election and return, and were a true member of the body; that, if any were found otherwise, he might be cut off and dismissed, as incompatible for the service of this so honourable and well-compounded an assembly.

A third grave person, and an ancient parliament-man, remembereth and alloweth the motions made by Sir Robert Wroth and Sir Edward Montague; but moveth that nothing might be offered in a general and vanishing speech, without a bill ready framed and exhibited to the house by the mover.

Hereupon the motion was continued that a select committee might be named for the consideration of the particulars mentioned by Sir Robert Wroth; and to that purpose were called and set down by name....[2] And the same committees [are] to make report of their proceeding in all or any of these from time to time, as they shall find fit or as the house shall direct them. And for their first meeting [they] are appointed to assemble themselves the same day at two o'clock in the afternoon in the exchequer chamber.

For the three grievances opened by Sir Edward Montague, were named....[3] And [they] were appointed to meet on Monday following ... at two o'clock in the afternoon in the star chamber....

Journals of the Commons, I, 149-51.

(C) The Case of Sir Francis Goodwin (1604)

[23 March.] ... Sir George Coppyn, knight, clerk of the crown in the chancery, this day, according to former order, being attended by the serjeant of the house with his mace, appeared at the bar and produced all the writs of summons, indentures, and returns made of the knights for Buckinghamshire for this parliament; which were severally read by the clerk of the house. And then the clerk of the crown [was] commanded to retire to the door; and after, Sir Francis Goodwin himself, whom it specially concerned, attending to know the pleasure of the house, was called in....

In this meantime the whole case was at large opened and argued pro et contra by sundry learned and grave members of the house, and after much dispute the question was agreed upon and made, whether Sir Francis Goodwin were lawfully elected and returned one of the knights for Buckinghamshire and ought to be admitted and received as a member of this house. Upon this question it was resolved in the affirmative, that he was lawfully elected and returned and de jure ought to be received. Hereupon the clerk of the crown was commanded to file the first indenture of return, and order was given that Sir Francis should presently take the oath of supremacy usual and his place in the house; which he did accordingly....

[29 March.] ... Mr. Speaker relateth what he had delivered to the king by warrant from the house the day before touching their proceeding in Sir Francis Goodwin's case, and his majesty's answer.... He said he first delivered (1) the manner and the matter; (2) then such precedents as had been vouched and stood upon; (3) he opened the body of the law for election.... For the matter of outlawry ... , Sir Francis has since been chosen, admitted, and served as a member of this house in ... several parliaments.... The outlawry remained in the hustings; so, as the law could not take notice of it, neither was it pleadable....

His majesty answered he was loath he should be forced to alter his tune, and that he should now change it into matter of grief by way of contestation. He did sample it to the murmur and contradiction of the people of Israel. He did not attribute the cause of his grief to any purpose in the house to offend him, but only to a mistaking of the law. For matters of fact, he answered them all particularly that, for his part, he was indifferent which of them were chosen, Sir John or Sir Francis; that they could suspect no special affection in him, because this was a counsellor not brought in by himself. That he had no purpose to impeach their privilege; but, since they derived all matters of privilege from him, and by his grant, he expected they should not be turned against him. [He said] that there was no precedent did suit this case fully; precedents in the times of minors, of tyrants, of women, of simple kings, [were] not to be credited, because [such were] for some private ends. By the law, this house ought not to meddle with returns, being all made into the chancery; and are to be corrected or reformed by that court only into which they are returned. [In] 35 Henry VI it was the resolution of all the judges that matter of outlawry was a sufficient cause of dismission of any member out of the house; that the judges have now resolved that Sir Francis Goodwin standeth outlawed according to the laws of this land. In conclusion, it was his majesty's special charge unto us that, first, the course already taken should be truly reported; (2) that we should debate the matter and resolve amongst ourselves; (3) that we should admit of conference with the judges; (4) that we should make report of all the proceedings unto the council....

[30 March.] ... Upon the conclusion of this debate ... ,[4] the house proceeded to question.... First question: whether the house was resolved in the matter. And the question was answered by general voice that the whole house was resolved. Second question: whether the reasons of their proceeding shall be set down in writing. Resolved that they shall be set down in writing; and ordered further that a committee should be named for that purpose.... The committees were instantly named, viz....

The house being resolved upon the question that the reasons of their precedent resolution touching the return, admittance, and retaining of Sir Francis Goodwin as a member of this house should be set down in writing, these committees were specially appointed to perform that service; and have warrant from the house to send for any officer, to view and search any record or other thing of that kind which may help their knowledge or memory in this particular service. And, having deliberately by general consent set down all such reasons, they are to bring them in writing into the house, there to be read and approved, as shall be thought fit.

[2 April.] ... It was then moved that committees might be named to take the examination of the sheriff of Buckinghamshire, who was by former order sent for and now come.... The examination was presently taken by these committees and returned in this form: —

Interrogation 1: Why he removed the county [court] from Aylesbury to Brickhill. He saith it was by reason of the plague being at Aylesbury, the county [court] being the 25th of January, at which time three were dead of the plague there. This was [the] only motive of removing his county [court]. Interrogation 2: Whether he were present at the first election. Saith he was present, and was as faithful to wish the second place to Sir Francis Goodwin as the first to Sir John Fortescue; sent Sir Francis Goodwin word before the election he should not need to bring any freeholders, for the election, he thought, would be without scruple for them both: first to Sir John, second to Sir Francis. About eight of the clock he came to Brickhill [and] was then told by Sir George Throckmorton and others that the first voice would be given for Sir Francis. He answered he hoped it would not be so and desired every gentleman to deal with his freeholders. After eight of the clock [he] went to the election, a great number there being children never at the county [court]. After the writ read, he first intimated the points of the proclamation; then jointly propounded Sir John Fortescue and Sir Francis Goodwin. The freeholders cried first, "A Goodwin! A Goodwin!" Every justice of peace on the bench said, "A Fortescue! A Fortescue!"; and came down from the bench before they named any for a second place and desired the freeholders to name Sir John Fortescue for the first. Sir Francis Goodwin, being in a chamber near, was sent for by the sheriff and justices; and he came down and earnestly persuaded with the freeholders, saying Sir John was his good friend; had been his father's; and that they would not do Sir John that injury. Notwithstanding, the freeholders would not desist, but still cried, "A Goodwin! A Goodwin!": some crying, "A Fortescue!" to the number of sixty or thereabouts; the other, for Sir Francis Goodwin, being about two or three hundred. And Sir Francis Goodwin, to his thinking, dealt very plainly and earnestly in this matter for Sir John Fortescue; for that Sir Francis Goodwin did so earnestly protest it unto him....

[3 April.] ... The reasons of the proceeding of the house in Sir Francis Goodwin's case penned by the committee were, according to former order, brought in by Mr. Francis Moore and read by the clerk, directed in form of a petition: —

To the king's most excellent majesty: The humble answer of the commons house of parliament to his majesty's objections in Sir Francis Goodwin's case.... There were objected against us by your majesty and your reverend judges four things to impeach our proceedings in receiving Francis Goodwin, knight, into our house.... The first [was] that we assumed to ourselves power of examining of the elections and returns of knights and burgesses, which belonged to your majesty's chancery and not to us.... Our humble answer is that until the seventh year of King Henry IV all parliament writs were returnable into the parliament.... In which year a statute was made that thenceforth every parliament writ ... should have this clause.... By this, although the form of the writ be somewhat altered, yet the power of parliament to examine and determine of elections remaineth; for so the statute hath been always expounded ... to this day.... And also the commons, in the beginning of every parliament, have ever used to appoint special committees all the parliament time for examining controversies concerning elections and returns of knights and burgesses; during which time the writs and indentures remain with the clerk of the crown, and after the parliament ended, and not before, are delivered to the clerk of the petty bag in chancery, to be kept there. Which is warranted by reason and precedents; reason, for that it is fit that the returns should be in that place examined, where the appearance and service of the writ is appointed. The appearance and service is in parliament; therefore the return [is] examinable in parliament....[5]

[5 April.] Mr. Speaker excuseth his absence, by reason he was commanded to attend upon his majesty, and bringeth message from his majesty to this effect: that the king had received a parchment from the house. Whether it were an absolute resolution or reason to give him satisfaction he knew not; he thought it was rather intended for his satisfaction. His majesty protested, by that love he bare to the house, as his loving and loyal subjects, and by the faith he did ever owe to God, he had as great a desire to maintain their privileges as ever any prince had, or as they themselves. He had seen and considered of the manner and the matter; he had heard his judges and council; and ... he was now distracted in judgment. Therefore, for his further satisfaction, he desired and commanded, as an absolute king, that there might be a conference between the house and the judges; and that, for that purpose, there might be a select committee of grave and learned persons out of the house; that his council might be present, not as umpires to determine, but to report indifferently on both sides.

Upon this unexpected message, there grew some amazement and silence; but at last one stood up and said: "The prince's command is like a thunderbolt; his command upon our allegiance like the roaring of a lion. To his command there is no contradiction; but how, or in what manner, we should now proceed to perform obedience, that will be the question." Another answered: "Let us petition to his majesty that he will be pleased to be present, to hear, moderate, and judge the case himself." Whereupon Mr. Speaker proceeded to this question: ... whether to confer with the judges in the presence of the king and council. Which was resolved in the affirmative, and a select committee [was] presently named for the conference....

These committees were selected and appointed to confer with the judges of the law touching the reasons of proceeding in Sir Francis Goodwin's case set down in writing and delivered to his majesty, in the presence of the lords of his majesty's council, according to his highness' pleasure, signified by Mr. Speaker this day to the house. It was further resolved and ordered by the house, upon the motion to that end by Mr. Lawrence Hyde, that the foresaid committees should insist upon the fortification and explaining of the reasons and answers delivered unto his majesty, and not proceed to any other argument or answer, what occasion soever moved in the time of that debate....

[11 April.] ... Sir Francis Bacon ... reporteth what had passed in conference in the presence of his majesty and his council. The king said ... that our privileges were not in question.... He granted it was a court of record and a judge of returns. He moved that neither Sir John Fortescue nor Sir Francis Goodwin might have place....

Upon this report, a motion was made that it might be done by way of warrant.... Question: whether Sir John Fortescue and Sir Francis Goodwin shall both be secluded and a warrant for a new writ directed. And upon the question [it was] resolved that a writ should issue for a new choice, and a warrant [was] directed accordingly....

Ibid., I, 151-68.

(D) The Case of Sir Thomas Shirley (1604)

[27 March.] This day the writ of habeas corpus, formerly awarded by order of the house, for the bringing in of the body of Sir Thomas Shirley, one of the members of the house and prisoner in the Fleet, was returned by the warden of the Fleet. The prisoner himself [was] brought to the bar; and Simpson, the goldsmith, and Watkins, the serjeant-at-mace, as delinquents, [were] brought in by the serjeant of the house. The writ and return was read by the clerk....

Mr. Speaker proposed divers questions to be answered by the said offenders by whose relation it was averred that the writ of execution was taken forth the 30th of January [and] was delivered to the serjeant the nth of February, before Sir Thomas was elected burgess; that Simpson and the serjeant, in the interim before the arrest, had no conference or privity one with the other; that the serjeant knew nothing at all of Sir Thomas his election, but understood by his majesty's proclamation that no person outlawed for treason, felony, debt, or any other trespass ought to be admitted a member of the parliament, and was thereupon induced to think that Sir Thomas Shirley, standing outlawed, should not be elected or admitted a burgess; which if he had known or suspected, he would have been very careful not to have given offence to this honourable house by any such arrest.

To this Sir Thomas was admitted to answer, who affirmed that the arrest was made the 15th day of March, the day of his majesty's first and solemn entrance through London; at what time he was going by commandment to wait upon his majesty; whereof, upon the first offer to touch him, he wished the serjeant to take knowledge, as also that he was elected a burgess for the borough of Steyning in the county of Sussex to serve at this present parliament; that, notwithstanding, they persisted in the arrest and carried his body to the prison of the Compter....

And the whole case, after long dispute, [was] summarily considered in three particulars: viz., first, privilege to a member; (2) interest reserved to a stranger; (3) punishment of the offender. Which being the grounds of all the subsequent arguments in this case, the dispute ended for this day; with caution that the house should so proceed as they gave not way and encouragement to others to practise to be arrested upon execution with a purpose, by pretence of privilege, to discharge the debt; and a motion that a special committee might be named for the consideration of all the questions and doubts in this case....

[16 April] Moved that a bill might be drawn in the matter of Sir Thomas Shirley, wherein was to be considered only two things: justice of privilege and justice to the party. For better information of the house and direction to the committees, certain ancient precedents of petitions to the kings of this realm, with answer and assent from the said kings in the very point of privilege, and of arrest upon execution, taken out of the parliament records in the Tower, upon this occasion were produced and read in the house, in number three, as followeth....[6]

After these precedents read, and some consideration had what was to be done, the house agreed upon three questions: (1) whether Sir Thomas Shirley shall have privilege; (2) whether presently or [to] be deferred till further order; (3) whether we shall be petitioners to his majesty, according to former precedents, for some course of securing the debt to the party and saving harmless the warden of the Fleet. These questions, being severally put, were all resolved in the affirmative; and so left for this day....[7]

Ibid., I, 155-75.

(E) Notes Concerning Procedure in the Commons (1604-07)

[26 March 1604.] ... Note that committees, being once named and a place appointed for their meeting by the house, may from time to time, until the report of their proceedings be made, adjourn and alter their place and time of meeting and select such sub-committees from amongst themselves as they shall find cause, for any particular purpose or service, to be assigned by themselves or the house upon their report....

Note, as an ancient rule of the house, that upon any conference the number of the commons named for the said conference are always double to those of the lords; and the place and time of meeting [are] appointed by the lords....

[14 April 1604.] ... In the matter formerly proposed touching the abuses of purveyors, it was now argued whether it were fittest to proceed by way of petition to his majesty or by bill, by Mr. Martin, Mr. Hoskins, and Mr. Hyde, and, lastly, by Sir Henry Jenkins, who was observed to mistake the question and therefore, to prevent the idle expense of time, was interrupted by Mr. Speaker. And thereupon a rule [was] conceived that, if any man speak impertinently or besides the question in hand, it stands with the orders of the house for Mr. Speaker to interrupt him and to know the pleasure of the house, whether they will further hear him....

[27 April 1604.] Sir Francis Bacon reporteth from the committee touching the union[8] that they had digested their resolutions into heads and assigned several parts to several persons of several qualities as they conceived fit ...: —

Matter of generality or common reason, two parts: (1) that there is no cause of change, Sir Francis Bacon; (2) that there is no precedent of like change, Sir Edwin Sandys.

Matter of estate inward and of law: Mr. Serjeant Hobart, Serjeant Dodridge, Serjeant Tanfield, Mr. Attorney of the Wards.

Matter of estate foreign or matter of intercourse: Sir Henry Nevill, Sir Richard Spencer, Sir John Hollis, Sir Arthur Atye, Sir Christopher Perkins, Sir Lewis Lewknor, Sir George Carey, master of the chancery.

Matter of honour and reputation: Sir Francis Hastings, Sir Maurice Berkley, Sir George Moore, Sir Herbert Crofts, Mr. Martin, Mr. Yelverton, Sir John Savill, Sir Robert Wingfield, Sir Oliver St. John, Sir Robert Wroth, Mr. Crewe, Sir Edward Hobby, Mr. Hyde....

[12 May 1604.] ... The commissioners for the union [were] named by the house and a several question [was] put upon every name. Privy councillors, two: Sir John Stanhope, knight, vice-chamberlain to the king; Sir John Harbert, second secretary to his majesty. Common lawyers, four: Sir Francis Bacon, one of his majesty's counsel learned; Sir Thomas Hesketh, knight, attorney of the wards; Sir Lawrence Tanfield, knight, serjeant-at-law; Sir Henry Hobart, knight, serjeant-at-law. Civilians, two: Sir John Bennett, knight, doctor of the laws; Sir Daniel Dun, knight, doctor of the laws. Merchants, four: Sir Henry Billingsley, Mr. Robert Askwith, Mr. Thomas James, Mr. Henry Chapman. Ambassadors, two: Sir Edward Stafford, Sir Henry Nevill. Gentlemen of several qualities and parts of the kingdom, [sixteen]....

[19 May 1604.] ... A motion [was] made that there might be a special place built and assigned for the keeping of the register and records and papers of the house, etc.; and for the clerk and his servants to attend and write in for the service of the house. The lord treasurer [was] to be moved in this. For this purpose a warrant was conceived in this form: —

... Whereas it is thought fit and so ordered by the commons house of parliament that all acts, resolutions, and judgments of the house, which are there entered and registered by their common servant, the clerk, should be written and engrossed in one fair register book, and that to be kept by the clerk for the use and direction of the said house; as also that all bills, whether passed or rejected, papers, notes, and other entries and proceedings of the house be preserved and kept in safety: it is required, on the behalf of the said house, that a room or place be provided near at hand with convenient presses and shelves, for the disposing and preserving of the said register, papers, and entries, and for the clerk and his servants to attend upon all occasions for the service of the said house; and this to be performed before the next session of this present parliament. Ed. Phelipps, speaker.

[8 June 1604.] ... Concluded and resolved, upon a double question, (1) that the great committee [for matters of religion] shall select a sub-committee amongst themselves to search, view, and consider of all such precedents as have warranted or may warrant this house to intermeddle with matters ecclesiastical; (2) to consider of the frame of a petition to be exhibited to his majesty for dispensation, with some learned and faithful ministers, in matters indifferent and of ceremony. And if they shall not think it meet to be done by way of petition, to report their opinion to the house....

[26 June 1607.] ... The amendments and provisions annexed to the bill of hostile laws sent down from the lords were secondly read and committed to the great committee named upon the second read ing of the bill itself in this house. And [it was] moved that Mr Speaker might depart, and the committee being compounded of the whole house ... might, for saving of time, presently enter into consideration of their charge. Which, after some dispute whether it were fit or no, being without precedent, seldom moved, and carrying with it no decorum in respect of Mr. Speaker's ordinary and necessary attendance upon the house till eleven o'clock, grew to a question, viz., whether the committee should now sit or in the afternoon. And [it was] resolved upon question they should meet in the afternoon and not now....[9]

Ibid., I, 153, 154, 171, 188, 208, 215, 387.

(F) Message of James I to the Commons (5 June 1604)

... Mr. Speaker delivereth from the king a message, of three parts: the motives of his majesty's unkindness; matter of his relation to us; of his princely satisfaction. When he looked into the gravity and judgment of this house, and of the long continuance of the parliament — [that] so few matters of weight [had been] passed and that matter of privilege had taken much time (which, notwithstanding, he was as careful to preserve as we ourselves) — he was moved with jealousy that there was not such proceeding as, in love, he expected. This [was] the cause of [his] unkindness ...; we should not think this declaration to us was any condemnation of our ingratitude or forgetfulness of him, but by way of commemoration and admonition, as a father to his children. Neither did he tax us, but only [did] remember us of expedition omitted and desired. Lastly ... , he is resolved we have not denied anything which is fit to be granted.... He had divers arguments of our good affections: (1) our doubt of his displeasure; (2) our desire to give him satisfaction, which he accepteth as a thing done because desired by us; (3) he observeth the difference of our proceeding, sithence his speech unto us, with greater expedition in those things desired to be effected by him than before. He giveth us thanks and wisheth we would not trouble ourselves with giving him satisfaction. And he giveth what time we desire for finishing the matters of importance depending....

Ibid., I, 232 f.

(G) The Apology of the Commons (20 June 1604)

The form of apology and satisfaction to be presented to his majesty, penned and agreed by a former select committee, was now reported and delivered into the house by Sir Thomas Ridgeway, one of the committees....

To the king's most excellent majesty: from the house of commons assembled in parliament. Most gracious sovereign, we cannot but with much joy and thankfulness of mind acknowledge your majesty's great graciousness in declaring lately unto us, by the mouth of our speaker, that you rested now satisfied with our doings. Which satisfaction ... yet proceeding merely from your majesty's most gracious disposition and not from any justification which on our behalf hath been made, we ... could not ... but tender in humble sort this further satisfaction.... With these minds, dread sovereign, your commons of England, represented now in us their knights, citizens, and burgesses, do come with this humble declaration to your highness and in great assurance of your most gracious disposition, that your majesty with benignity of mind correspondent to our dutifulness, will be pleased to peruse it.

We know, and with great thankfulness to God acknowledge, that He hath given us a king of such understanding and wisdom as is rare to find in any prince in the world. Howbeit, seeing no human wisdom, how great soever, can pierce into the particularities of the rights and customs of people, or of the sayings and doings of particular persons, but by tract of experience and faithful report of such as know them ... , what grief, what anguish of mind hath it been unto us at some times in presence to hear and see, in other things to find and feel by effect, your gracious majesty, to the extreme! prejudice of this house of the commons, thereof so greatly wronged by information...! We have been constrained, as well in duty to your royal majesty, whom with faithful hearts we serve, as to our dear country, for which we serve in this parliament ... , freely to disclose unto your majesty the truth of such matters concerning your subjects, the commons, as heretofore by misinformation have been suppressed or perverted. Wherein ... we shall reduce these misinformations to three principal heads: first, touching the cause of the joyful receiving of your majesty into this your kingdom; secondly, concerning the liberties and rights of your subjects of England and the privileges of this house; thirdly, touching the several actions and speeches passed in the house.

It has been told us to our faces by some of no small place, and the same spoken also in the presence of your majesty, that, on the 24th of March was twelvemonth,[10] we stood in so great fear that we would have given half we were worth for the security wherein we now stand.... We contrariwise most truly protest the contrary, that we stood not at that time, nor of many a day before, in any doubt or fear at all. We ... , standing clear in our own consciences touching your majesty's right, were both resolute with our lives and all other abilities to have maintained the same against all the world.... But the true cause of our extraordinary great cheerfulness and joy in performing that day's duty was the great and extraordinary love which we bare towards your majesty's most royal and renowned person and a longing thirst to enjoy the happy fruits of your most wise, religious, just, virtuous, and gracious heart. Whereof not rumours, but your majesty's own writings, had given us a strong and undoubted assurance....

Now concerning the ancient right of the subjects of this realm, chiefly consisting in the privileges of this house of the parliament, the misinformation openly delivered to your majesty hath been in three things: first, that we hold not our privileges of right, but of grace only, renewed every parliament by way of donative upon petition, and so to be limited; secondly, that we are no court of record, nor yet a court that can command view of records, but that our proceedings here are only to acts and memorials, and that the attendance with the records is courtesy, not duty; and, lastly, that the examination of the returns of writs for knights and burgesses is without our compass, and due to the chancery. Against which assertions ... , tending directly and apparently to the utter overthrow of the very fundamental privileges of our house — and therein of the rights and liberties of the whole commons of your realm of England, which they and their ancestors from time immemorial have undoubtedly enjoyed under your majesty's noble progenitors — we, the knights, citizens, and burgesses in the house of commons assembled in parliament, and in the name of the whole commons of the realm of England, with uniform consent for ourselves and our posterities, do expressly protest, as being derogatory in the highest degree to the true dignity, liberty, and authority of your majesty's high courts of parliament, and consequently to the right of all your majesty's said subjects, and the whole body of this your kingdom; and desire that this our protestation may be recorded to all posterity. And contrariwise ... , we most truly avouch that our privileges and liberties are our rights and due inheritance no less than our very lands and goods; that they cannot be withheld from us, denied, or impaired, but with apparent wrong to the whole state of the realm; and that our making of request in the entrance of parliament to enjoy our privileges is an act only of manners and doth not weaken our right, no more than our suing to the king for our lands by petition....

From these misinformed positions ... the greatest part of our troubles, distrust, and jealousy have arisen; having apparently found that in this first parliament of the happy reign of your majesty the privileges of our house, and therein the liberties and stability of the whole kingdom, have been more universally and dangerously impugned than ever, as we suppose, since the beginnings of parliaments. For although it may be true that in the latter times of Queen Elizabeth some one privilege now and then were by some particular act attempted against ... , yet was not the same ever by so public speech nor by positions in general denounced against our privileges. Besides that in regard to her sex and age which we had great cause to tender, and much more upon care to avoid all trouble, which by wicked practice might have been drawn to impeach the quiet of your majesty's right in the succession, those actions were then passed over, which we hoped, in succeeding times of freer access to your highness' so renowned grace and justice, to redress, restore, and rectify. Whereas, contrariwise, in this parliament ... , by reason of those misinformations, not only privileges but the whole freedom of the parliament and realm have from time to time, upon all occasions, been mainly hewed at; the freedom of our persons in election hath been impeached; the freedom of our speech prejudiced by often reproofs; thirdly, particular persons noted with taunt and disgrace, who have spoken their consciences in matters proposed to the house, it with all due respect and reverence to your majesty.... What cause we, your poor commons, have to watch over our privileges is manifest in itself to all men. The prerogatives of princes may easily and do daily grow; the privileges of the subject are for the most part at an everlasting stand. They may be by good providence and care preserved; but, being once lost, are not recovered but with much disquiet. If good kings were immortal as well as kingdoms, to strive so for privilege were vanity perhaps and folly. But, being the same God, who in His great mercy hath given us a most wise king and religious, doth also sometimes permit hypocrites and tyrants in His displeasure and for sins of people, from hence hath the desire of rights, liberties, and privileges, both for nobles and commons, had his just original; by which an harmonical and stable state is framed, each member under the head enjoying that right, and performing that duty, which for the honour of the head and happiness of the whole is requisite. Thus much touching the wrong done to your majesty by misinformation touching our privileges. The last kind of misinformation made to your majesty hath been touching the actions and speeches of particular persons used in the house.... It is very clear unto us, by the effect, that divers things spoken in the house have been perverted and very untruly reported to your majesty....

And now, most gracious sovereign, these necessary grounds of our cause and defence being truly laid ... , the justification of ... particulars we trust will be plain and expedite....

1. The gentleman usher's fault in depriving by his unaccustomed neglect a great part of our house from hearing your majesty's speech the first day of the parliament we could not ... but complain of in decent sort among ourselves, and further we proceeded not. Your majesty's extraordinary great grace and favour, in rehearsing the day following your former admirable speech, did give us content with abundant increase of joy.

2. The yeomen of the guard's words were very opprobrious, and howsoever they might have been not unfitly applied to the peasants of France or boors of Germany, yet could they not be other than very reproachful and injurious to the great dignities and honour of the commons of this realm, who contain not only the citizens, burgesses, and yeomanry, but also the whole inferior nobility of the kingdom, and knights, esquires, and gentlemen; many of which are come immediately out of the most noble families, and some other of their worth advanced to high honour of your majesty's privy council, and otherwise have been employed in very honourable service. In sum, the sole persons of the higher nobility excepted, they contain the whole flower and power of your kingdom; with their bodies your wars, with their purses your treasures, are upheld and supplied. Their hearts are the strength and stability of your royal seat. All these, amounting to many millions of people, are representatively present in us of the house of commons. The wrong done to us doth redound to the whole land and will so be construed. We could not therefore do less in duty to the realm than to advertise such a delinquent of the unseemliness of this fault; neither yet could we do more in duty to your majesty than upon his acknowledgment thereof to remit it.

3. The right of the liberty of the commons of England in parliament consisteth chiefly in these three things: first, that the shires, cities, and boroughs of England ... have free choice of such persons as they shall put in trust to represent them; secondly, that the persons chosen during the time of the parliament, as also of their access and recess, be free from restraint, arrest, and imprisonment; thirdly, that in parliament they may speak freely their consciences without check or controlment, doing the same with due reverence to the sovereign court of parliament — that is, to your majesty and to both the houses, who all in this case make but one politic body, whereof your highness is the head....

7. For matter of religion, it will appear by examination of truth and right that your majesty should be misinformed, if any man should deliver that the kings of England have any absolute power in themselves, either to alter religion (which God forfend should be in the power of any mortal man whatsoever!) or to make any laws concerning the same, otherwise than in temporal causes by consent of parliament. We have and shall at all times by our oaths acknowledge that your majesty is sovereign lord and supreme governor in both. Touching our own desires and proceedings therein, they have not been a little misconceived and misreported. We have not come in any Puritan or Brownist spirit to introduce their purity, or to work the subversion of the state ecclesiastical, as now it stands — things so far and so clear from our meaning as that, with uniform consent in the beginning of this parliament, we committed to the Tower a man who out of that humour had, in a petition exhibited to our house, slandered the bishops. But according to the tenor of your majesty's writ of summons directed to the counties from which we came, and according to the ancient and long-continued use of parliaments, as by many records from time to time appeareth, we came with another spirit, even the spirit of peace. We disputed not of matters of faith and doctrine; our desire was peace only, and our device of unity: how this lamentable and long-lasting dissension amongst the ministers (from which both atheism, sects, and ill life have received such encouragement and so dangerous increase) might at length, before help come too late, be extinguished. And for the ways of this peace, we are not addicted at all to our own inventions, but ready to embrace any fit way that may be offered. Neither desire we so much that any man, in regard of weakness of conscience, may be exempted after parliament from obedience to laws established, as that in this parliament such laws may be enacted as, by relinquishment of some few ceremonies of small importance, or by any way better, a perpetual uniformity may be enjoined and observed. Our desire has been also to reform certain abuses crept into the ecclesiastical state, even as into the temporal; and, lastly, that the land might be furnished with a learned, religious, and godly ministry, for the maintenance of whom we would have granted no small contribution, if in these, as we trust, just and religious desires we had found that correspondency from other which was expected....

9.... A general, extreme, unjust, crying oppression is in the cart-takers and purveyors....[11] We have not in this parliament sought anything against them but execution of those laws which are in force already. We demand but that justice which our princes are sworn neither to deny, delay, nor sell.[12] That we sought into the accounts of your majesty's expense was not our presumption, but upon motion from the lords of your majesty's council and offer from your officers of your highness' household; and that upon a demand of a perpetual yearly revenue in lieu of the taking away of these oppressions — unto which composition neither knew we well how to yield, being only for justice and due right, which is unsalable, neither yet durst we impose it by law upon the people, without first acquainting them, and having their counsel unto it. But if your majesty might be pleased in your gracious favour to treat of composition with us for some grievance which is by law and just, how ready should we be to take that occasion and colour to supply your majesty's desire concerning these also, we hold for unjust, should appear, we nothing doubt, to your majesty's full satisfaction.

10. And therefore we come, lastly, to the matter of wards, and such other just burdens (for so we acknowledge them) as to the tenures of [in] capite and knight's service are incident. We cannot forget (for how were it possible?) how your majesty, in a former most gracious speech in your gallery at Whitehall, advised us for unjust burdens to proceed against them by bill; but for such as were just, if we desired any ease, that we should come to yourself by way of petition, with tender of such countervailable composition in profit as for the supporting of your royal estate was requisite. According unto which your majesty's most favourable grant and direction, we prepared a petition to your most excellent majesty for leave to treat with your highness touching a perpetual composition, to be raised by yearly revenue out of the lands of your subjects for wardships and other burdens depending upon them or springing with them. Wherein we first entered into this dutiful consideration, that this prerogative of the crown, which we desire to compound for, was a matter of mere profit and not of any honour at all or princely dignity.... Our sayings have always been that this burden was just, that the remitting thereof must come from your majesty's grace, and that the denying of the suit were no wrong unto us....

There remaineth ... yet one part more of our duty at this present.... Let your majesty be pleased to receive public information from your commons in parliament as well of the abuses in the church as in the civil estate and government; for private informations pass often by practice. The voice of the people in things of their knowledge is said to be as the voice of God. And if your majesty shall vouchsafe at your best pleasure and leisure to enter into gracious consideration of our petitions, for ease of those burdens under which your whole people have long time mourned, hoping for relief by your majesty, then may you be assured to be possessed of their hearts; and, if of their hearts, then of all they can do or have. And we, your majesty's most humble and loyal subjects, whose ancestors have with great loyalty, readiness, and joyfulness, served your famous progenitors, kings and queens of this realm, shall with like loyalty and joy, both we and our posterity serve your majesty and your most royal issue forever with our lives, lands, and goods, and all other our abilities; and by all means endeavour to procure your majesty's honour with all plenty, tranquillity, joy, and felicity.[13]

Ibid., I, 243.

(H) James I: Levy of Impositions (1608)[14]

James, by the grace of God king ... , to our right trusty and right well-beloved councillor, Robert, earl of Salisbury, our high treasurer of England, greeting. It is well known unto all men of judgment .. that the care imposed upon princes to provide for the ... welfare of their subjects is accompanied with so heavy a charge as all the circumstances belonging thereunto can hardly fall under the conceit of any other than of those who are acquainted with the carriage of public affairs. And therefore this special power and prerogative, amongst many others, hath both by men of understanding in all ages and by the laws of all nations been yielded and acknowledged to be proper and inherent in the persons of princes, that they may according to their several occasions raise to themselves such fit and competent means by levying of customs and impositions upon merchandises transported out of their kingdoms or brought into their dominions, either by the subjects born under their allegiance or by strangers ... , as to their wisdoms and discretions may seem convenient, without prejudice of trade and commerce, sufficiently to supply and sustain the great ... expense incident unto them in the maintenance of their crowns and dignities. So we at this time, out of many ... weighty considerations, as well for the exonerating of the crown of divers just ... debts as for the supply of many other our ... important occasions known to us and our council, and now particularly for the service of Ireland ... , have been forced to resort to some such course of raising profit upon merchandise passing outward and inward as in former times hath been usual, not only by our progenitors, kings and princes of this realm, but also often in practice among other nations.... And although we have resolved to lay some kind of impositions both upon many foreign merchandises brought into this our realm and also upon divers native commodities and merchandises ... , yet, to the intent it may appear what care we have in all things of this nature to avoid the least inconvenience or grievance that may arise to our people, we have ... given special charge in the levying of the same to ... exempt all such merchandises as are requisite for the food and sustenance of our people, or which contain matter of munition necessary for the defence of our realms ... , or any other ... materials fit ... for the maintenance and enlargement of trade and navigation....

Know ye therefore that, for the considerations aforesaid ... , we have ... ordained ... that there shall be forever, from and after the 29th day of September next ensuing ... , levied, taken, and received by way of imposition now newly set, over and besides the customs, subsidies, and other duties heretofore due and payable unto us, upon all merchandises ... which ... shall be either brought from any part beyond the seas unto this our realm ... or which shall be transported ... forth of the same ... , just so much for the said new imposition as hath been and is now answered and paid unto us for the subsidy of the said merchandises, and neither more nor less ...; excepting such merchandises only as in a schedule hereunto annexed are expressed, which are either altogether ... exempted from payment of any of the said new impositions or else are appointed ... to pay the same in such proportion as is either more or less than the subsidy payable for the same, as in the said schedule is more plainly ... expressed. Wherefore we do ... command you that forthwith ... you give order ... unto all customers or collectors ... and other our officers and ministers of all our ports ... that they shall ... take of all Englishmen, aliens ... , and all persons ... which shall bring into this our realm ... or ... carry forth ... of the same ... any goods, wares or merchandises ... so much for and by way of the said new imposition as hath been and now is answered and paid unto us for the subsidy of the said merchandises....

Prothero, Constitutional Documents, pp. 353 f.

(I) Address of the Commons to James I (1610)

Most gracious sovereign: Whereas your majesty's most humble subjects, the commons assembled in parliament, have received, first by message and since by speech from your majesty, a commandment of restraint from debating in parliament your majesty's right of imposing upon your subjects' goods exported or imported out of or into this realm; yet allowing us to examine the grievance of those impositions in regard of quantity, time, and other circumstances of disproportion thereto incident: we your said humble subjects, nothing doubting but that your majesty had no intent by that commandment to infringe the ancient and fundamental right of the liberty of the parliament in point of exact discussing of all matters concerning them and their possessions, goods, and rights whatsoever (which yet we cannot but conceive to be done, in effect, by this commandment), do with all humble duty make this remonstrance to your majesty: —

First, we hold it an ancient, general, and undoubted right of parliament to debate freely all matters which do properly concern the subject and his right or state; which freedom of debate being once foreclosed, the essence of the liberty of parliament is withal dissolved.

And whereas, in this case, the subjects' right on the one side and your majesty's prerogative on the other cannot possibly be severed in debate of either: we allege that your majesty's prerogatives of that kind, concerning directly the subjects' right and interest, are daily handled and discussed in all courts at Westminster, and have been ever freely debated upon all fit occasions both in this and all former parliaments without restraint; which being forbidden, it is impossible for the subject either to know or to maintain his right and propriety to his own lands and goods, though never so just and manifest.

It may farther please your most excellent majesty to understand that we have no mind to impugn, but a desire to inform ourselves of, your highness' prerogative in that point, which, if ever, is now most necessary to be known; and though it were to no other purpose, yet to satisfy the generality of your majesty's subjects, who, finding themselves much grieved by these new impositions, do languish in much sorrow and discomfort.

These reasons, dread sovereign, being the proper reasons of parliament, do plead for the upholding of this our ancient right and liberty. Howbeit, seeing it hath pleased your majesty to insist upon that judgment in the exchequer[15] as being direction sufficient for us without further examination, upon great desire of leaving your majesty unsatisfied in no one point of our intents and proceedings, we profess, touching that judgment, that we neither do nor will take upon us to reverse it; but our desire is to know the reasons whereupon the same was grounded, and the rather for that a general conceit is had that the reasons of that judgment may be extended much farther, even to the utter ruin of the ancient liberty of this kingdom, and of your subjects' right of propriety of their lands and goods....

We therefore, your highness' loyal and dutiful commons, not swerving from the approved steps of our ancestors, most humbly and instantly beseech your gracious majesty that, without offence to the same, we may, according to the undoubted right and liberty of parliament, proceed in our intended course of a full examination of these new impositions....[16]

Journals of the Commons, I, 431 f.

(J) Letter of James I to the Commons (1621)

Mr. Speaker: We have heard by divers reports, to our great grief, that our distance from the houses of parliament, caused by our indisposition of health, hath emboldened some fiery and popular spirits of some of the house of commons to argue and debate publicly of the matters far above their reach and capacity, tending to our high dishonour and breach of prerogative royal. These are therefore to command you to make known, in our name, unto the house that none therein shall presume henceforth to meddle with anything concerning our government or deep matters of state; and, namely, not to deal with our dearest son's match with the daughter of Spain, nor to touch the honour of that king or any other our friends and confederates, and also not to meddle with any man's particulars which have their due motion in our ordinary courts of justice. And whereas we hear they have sent a message to Sir Edward[17] Sandys to know the reasons of his late restraint, you shall in our name resolve them that it was not for any misdemeanour of his in parliament. But, to put them out of doubt of any question of that nature that may arise among them hereafter, you shall resolve them, in our name, that we think ourself very free and able to punish any man's misdemeanours in parliament, as well during their sitting as after — which we mean not to spare hereafter upon any occasion of any man's insolent behaviour there that shall be ministered unto us. And if they have already touched any of these points, which we have forbidden, in any petition of theirs which is to be sent unto us, it is our pleasure that you shall tell them that, except they reform it before it come to our hands, we will not deign the hearing nor answering of it.

Rushworth, Historical Collections, I, 43 f.

(K) Debates in the Commons on Privilege (1621)

... Here again, the speaker going out of the chair, the grand committee falleth into debate of the privileges of the house. Mr. Alford would have a select committee appointed to consider of the points of such of our privileges as are impeached, and to draw a protestation for the same privileges in particular and also of all the rest in general. Mr. Thomas Crewe saith that, though the calling of a parliament and the continuing, prorogation, and dissolving of it be in the king's sole power, yet, when we are called, we are without limitation to deal in what business ourselves think best; for otherwise shall we not be able to do their business for whom we come hither, which is that of the country. He would not have this committee to insist so much on particulars as on the generality of our privileges. Sir Edward Coke would not have us here at this time, in the handling and debating of our privileges, to meddle with war or marriage; and would have a sub-committee appointed for this; and this sub-committee shall consider of all those matters which are mentioned in the writ of parliament, and also of our liberty of speech and of our power to punish those that speak too lavishly, and of our power to meddle and debate of what we shall of ourselves think fit.

The heads to be considered of by the sub-committee for privileges: (1) concerning freedom of speech; and therein to treat de arduis et urgentibus negotiis regni according to the writ of summons, whether it be concerning the king or otherwise; (2) touching the liberty of this house to punish the misdemeanours of any parliament-man in parliament for things whereof this house hath cognizance, whether he ought not to be censured here by the house only; (3) whether, when we receive commandment from the king, the house shall thereon desist, and not proceed notwithstanding such command in any business; (4) whether our privileges be not our right and inheritance; (5) that the sub-committee shall consider of anything else incident to the liberty of the house; (6) that the sub-committee shall consider whether it be not fit for us to make an expression here in the house, that it is an ancient privilege of parliament that no member of this house shall presume to acquaint the king with any business in debate here but by order from the whole house or from the speaker.

It is ordered at this grand committee that a sub-committee shall reduce all these heads which have been propounded into the form of a protestation; and that they shall render an account and their reasons of such things as they shall think not fit to be reduced into a protestation. And the sub-committee is appointed accordingly, and is to sit this afternoon in the committee chamber.

The speaker being in the chair, it is ordered that the speaker shall attend here at four of the clock this afternoon; that, the sub-committee having drawn the foresaid heads into the form of a protestation and made a report thereof to the grand committee, the house may, if occasion be, confirm the protestation; because otherwise it may be the king will command the house to be adjourned before such protestation be made in the house, and so may we endanger the validity of our privileges and liberties in those points wherein they have seemed to be impeached at this our meeting, viz., in those heads before ordered to be considered of by the sub-committee....

The sub-committee bring the draught of a protestation of the grand committee, which containeth as followeth: —

The commons, now assembled in parliament, being justly occasioned thereunto, concerning sundry liberties, franchises, and privileges of parliament amongst others not herein mentioned, do make this protestation following: That the liberties, franchises, privileges and jurisdictions of parliament are the ancient and undoubted birthright and inheritance of the subjects of England; and that the arduous and urgent affairs concerning the king, state, and the defence of the realm, and of the Church of England, and the making and maintenance of laws, and redress of mischiefs and grievances, which daily happen within this realm, are proper subjects and matter of counsel and debate in parliament; and that in the handling and proceeding of those businesses every member of the house hath and of right ought to have freedom of speech to propound, treat, reason, and bring to conclusion the same; that the commons in parliament have like liberty and freedom to treat of those matters in such order as in their judgments shall seem fittest; and that every such member of the said house hath like freedom from all impeachment, imprisonment, and molestation (other than by the censure of the house itself) for or concerning any bill, speaking, reasoning, or declaring of any matter or matters touching the parliament or parliament business; and that, if any of the said members be complained of and questioned for anything said or done in parliament, the same is to be showed to the king by the advice and assent of all the commons assembled in parliament before the king give credence to any private information.

The speaker being in the chair, it is ordered, by question in the house, that this protestation shall be here entered forthwith in the book of the house, and there to remain as of record. And accordingly it was here entered, sitting the house, between five and six of the clock at night by candle-light.[18]

Nicholas, Proceedings in the Commons in 1620 and 1621, II, 357 f.

(L) The King's Dissolution of Parliament (1622)

Albeit the assembling, continuing, and dissolving of parliaments be a prerogative so peculiarly belonging to our imperial crown, and the times and seasons thereof so absolutely in our own power, that we need not give account thereof unto any; yet, according to our continual custom to make our good subjects acquainted with the reasons of all our public resolutions and actions, we have thought it expedient at this time to declare, not only our pleasure and resolution therein, grounded upon mature deliberation with the advice and uniform consent of our whole privy council, but therewith also to note some especial proceedings moving us to this resolution....

This parliament was by us called, as for making good ... laws, so more especially, in this time of miserable distraction throughout Christendom, for the better settling of peace and religion and restoring our children to their ancient and lawful patrimony.... This parliament, beginning in January last, proceeded some months with such harmony between us and our people as cannot be paralleled by any former time; for, as the house of commons at the first, both in the manner of their supply and otherwise, showed greater love and more respect than ever any house of commons did to us or, as we think, to any king before us, so we upon all their complaints have afforded them such memorable and rare examples of justice as many ages past cannot show the like.... And although, after their first recess at Easter, we found that they misspent a great deal of time ... , yet we gave them time and scope for their parliamentary proceedings and prolonged the session to an unusual length....

But, during the time of this long recess having to our great charges mediated with the emperor by the means of our ambassador, the lord Digby, and having found those hopes to fail ... , we, in confidence of the assistance of our people thus freely promised and protested in parliament, did ... reassemble our parliament the 20th day of November last, and made known unto them the true state and necessity of our children's affairs.... Wherein, howbeit we are well satisfied of the good inclination of most part of our house of commons, testified by their ready assent to the speedy payment of a subsidy newly to be granted; yet, upon this occasion, some particular members of that house took such inordinate liberty, not only to treat of our high prerogatives and of sundry things that, without our special direction, were no fit subjects to be treated of in parliament, but also to speak with less respect of foreign princes, our allies, than was fit for any subject to do of any anointed king, though in enmity and hostility with us. And when, upon this occasion, we used some reprehension towards those miscarriages, requiring them not to proceed but in such things as were within the capacity of that house according to the continual custom of our predecessors; then, by the means of some evil-affected and discontented persons, such heat and distemper was raised in the house that, albeit themselves had sued unto us for a session and for a general pardon, unto both which at their earnest suit we assented, yet after this fire kindled they rejected both and, setting apart all businesses of ... weight, notwithstanding our ... earnest pressing them to go forward, they either sat as silent or spent the time in disputing of privileges, descanting upon the words and syllables of our letters and messages.... And notwithstanding the sincerity of our protestations not to invade their privileges, yet, by persuasion of such as had been the cause of all these distempers, they fall to carve for themselves and, pretending causelessly to be occasioned thereunto, in an unseasonable hour of the day and a very thin house, contrary to their own customs in all matters of weight, conclude and enter a protestation for their liberties, in such ambiguous and general words as might serve for future times to invade most of our ... prerogative annexed to our imperial crown; whereof, not only in the times of other our progenitors but in the blessed reign of our late predecessor, that renowned queen, Elizabeth, we found our crown actually possessed — an usurpation that the majesty of a king can no means endure. By all which may appear that, howsoever in the general proceedings of that house there are many footsteps of ... well-affected duty towards us, yet some ill-tempered spirits have sowed tares among the corn, and thereby frustrated the hope of that plentiful ... harvest which might have multiplied the wealth and welfare of this whole land, and by their cunning diversions have imposed upon us a necessity of discontinuing this present parliament without putting unto it the name or period of a session.

And therefore, whereas the said assembly of parliament was by our commission adjourned until the 8th day of February now next ensuing, we, minding not to continue the same any longer ... , have thought fit to signify this our resolution, with the reasons thereof, unto all our subjects inhabiting in all parts of this realm; willing and requiring the said prelates, noblemen, and states, and also the said knights, citizens, and burgesses, and all others to whom in this case it shall appertain, that they forbear to attend at the day and place prefixed by the said adjournment.... And albeit we are at this time enforced to break off this convention of parliament, yet our will and desire is that all our subjects should take notice, for avoiding of all sinister suspicions and jealousies, that our ... full resolution is to govern our people in the same manner as our progenitors and predecessors, kings and queens of this realm, of best government, have heretofore done ...; and that we shall be as glad to lay hold on the first occasion in ... convenient time, which we hope shall not be long, to ... assemble our parliament with confidence of the ... hearty love ... of our subjects, as either we or any of our progenitors have at any time heretofore.

Rymer, Foedera, XVII, 344.


[1] Because he had been outlawed; see below, p. 410.

[2] Forty-seven members of the house.

[3] All privy councillors in the house and fifty-nine others.

[4] The house had debated the case of Goodwin since the speaker's report on the previous day.

[5] The address then cites precedents and continues the argument to meet the other objections raised by the king.

[6] The commons cite Larke's case (no. 67C) and two later instances.

[7] Cf. no. 90C.

[8] The proposed union of England and Scotland, vainly urged by James I during these years.

[9] Robert Bowyer's diary (edited by D. H. Willson, pp. 350 f.) gives the following version of these proceedings: "Mr. Speaker did put the house in mind that there is but three courses: 'Either,' said he, 'you must be pleased to dispute it, or to commit it, or to put it to the question.' Whereupon it was committed, the whole house to be committees in this place this afternoon, but not upon a question. Sir William Stroude moved that, being but ten of the clock, the speaker might depart and the house presently to proceed by committee. Of this point divers opinions arose, whereupon the question was made whether now or in the afternoon.... It was put to the question and, the voices being doubtful and the question put again, the No prevailed.... After dinner members assembled in the house. The voice, as I and others conceived, was for Mr. Fuller to take the chair and some on Mr. Attorney. Mr. Fuller modestly refusing ... , Mr. Attorney offered himself to it...."

[10] The day of Elizabeth's death.

[11] Cf. no. 62J.

[12] Art. 40 of Magna Carta (above, p. 121).

[13] The official journal contains only the beginning of this document; the rest of the preceding version has been transcribed from State Papers Domestic, James I, viii, fol. 60 f. For evidence that the Apology was actually presented to the king, see Notestein, Relf, and Simpson, Commons Debates, 1621, V, 433.

[14] This was a general order issued by the king as the result of his victory in Bates' case (no. 91A).

[15] Bates' case (no. 91A).

[16] No clear statement of the royal reply to this petition is contained in the official journal of the house, but a private diary of the period (Gardiner, Parliamentary Debates in 1610, pp. 41 f.) gives the following report: "... For our petition, he granted it as we had set it down ourselves, but he put us in mind to observe three things therein contained: (1) not to impugn his prerogative; (2) to seek his content and satisfaction; (3) to endeavour to unite and confirm his subjects' hearts unto him — protesting that he never meant to abridge us of any liberties appertaining unto us, which he hoped we would not abuse."

[17] A mistake for Edwin.

[18] In the margin of the journal, where this entry had been made, is the memorandum: "King James in council with his own hand rent out this protestation" (Journals of the Commons, I, 668, note a).


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