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Anon, Vox Populi - Joyce Lee Malcom, The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, vol. 2 
The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, 2 vols, ed. Joyce Lee Malcolm (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999). Vol. 2.
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Anon, Vox Populi
To Redress Grievances, and Provide for the Common Safety;
The known Laws and Constitutions of the Nation:
Humbly Recommended to the KING and Parliament at their Meeting at OXFORD, the 21th of March.
Rex merito debet Retribuere Legi, quia Lex tribuit ei, facit enim Lex quod ipse sit Rex. Bracton, lib. 3.c.9 fol. 107.
The King ought deservedly to give the Law his due, because the Law gave it him; for the Law makes him a King.
Prov. 22.28. Remove not the Ancient Land-mark (or Bound) which thy Fathers have set.
Printed for Francis Smith at the Elephant and Castle near the Royal Exchange in Cornhill, 1681.
This anonymous pamphlet was part of the new Whig party’s campaign to pressure Charles II to agree to a bill that would exclude his Catholic brother, James, from the throne. Charles had countered these efforts by abruptly proroguing or dismissing parliaments, which had the effect of terminating any pending exclusion bill and aborted the influence of the Whig-dominated House of Commons. When the Parliament of March 1679 returned from its summer recess the following October, Charles immediately prorogued it for a full year. Members resumed business in October 1680 only to find the Parliament dissolved barely four months later. It was a newly elected parliament summoned to convene at Oxford in March 1681 to which this tract is addressed. The repeated disruptions of parliaments justified complaints that little useful business had been accomplished.
“Vox Populi,” however, rises above its immediate political moment by assembling timely legal maxims amplifying the importance of law and Parliament and emphasizing the limitations of the monarch. It then provides a brief history of the antiquity and significance of parliaments. All this harked back to the views of the men of the 1640s and the “good old cause,” a similarity that enabled the Crown and the Tories to raise the spectre of Whigs intent upon another civil war.
“Vox Populi” may have energized Whigs but was ignored by Charles, who peremptorily dismissed the new parliament on 28 March 1681 merely a week after it convened. A secret stipend from Louis XIV ensured that this was the last parliament Charles would ever need to call.
Or, the Peoples Claim to Their Parliaments Sitting, to Redress Grievances and to Provide for the Common Safety, by the Known Laws and Constitutions of the Nation.
Recommended to the King and Parliament at their meeting at Oxford, &c.
Since the Wonderful Discovery and undeniable Confirmation of that horrid Popish Plot which designed so much ruine and mischief to these Nations, in all things both Civil and Sacred, and the unanimous Sence and Censure of so many Parliaments upon it, together with so many publick Acts of Justice upon so many of the Traitors; it was comfortably hoped before thirty Months should have past over after the Detection thereof, some effectual Remedies might have been applied to prevent the further attempts of the Papists upon us, and better to have secured the Protestants in their Religion, Lives and Properties. But by sad experience we have found, that notwithstanding the Vigorous Endeavours of three of our Parliaments to provide proper and wholsome Laws to Answer both ends: Yet so prevalent has this Interest been, under so potent a head the D. of Y.1 as to stifle in the Birth all those hopeful Parliament-Endeavours; by those many Surprizing and Astonishing Prorogations and Dissolutions which they have procured, whereby our fears and Dangers have Manifestly increased, and their Spirits heightened and incouraged to renew and Multiply fresh Plottings and Designs upon us.
But that our approaching Parliament may be more successeful for our Relief before it be too late, by being permitted to sit to Redress our Grievances, and to perfect those Good Bills which have been prepared by the former Parliaments to this purpose; these following Common Law Maxims respecting King and Parliament, and the Common and Statute Laws themselves (to prevent such unnatural Disappointments and Mischiefs) providing for the sitting of Parliaments till Grievances be redressed, and publick Safety secured and provided for, are tendered to consideration.
Some known Maxims taken out of the Law-Books.
1. Respecting the King.
That the Kings of England can do nothing as Kings but what of right they ought to do.
That the King can do no wrong, nor can he die.
That the King’s Prerogative and the Subject’s Liberty are determined by Law.
That the King hath no Power but what the Law gives him.
That the King is so called from Ruling well, Rex a bene Regendo [viz. according to Law] Because he is a King whilst he Rules well, but a Tyrant when he Oppresses.
That Kings of England never appear more in their glory, splendor and Majestick Soveraignty, than in Parliaments.
That the Prerogative of the King cannot do wrong, nor be a Warrant to do wrong to any. Plowd. Comment. fol. 246.
2. Respecting the Parliament.
That Parliaments constitute and are laid in the Essence of the Government.
That a Parliament is that to the Common-Wealth which the Soul is to the Body, which is only able to apprehend and understand the symptoms of all Diseases which threaten the Body politick.
That a Parliament is the Bulwark of our Liberty, the boundary whichkeeps us from the Innundation of Tyrannical Power, Arbitrary and unbounded Will-Government.
That Parliaments do make new and abrogate Old Laws, Reform Grievances in the Common-Wealth, settle the Succession, grant subsidies; And in summe, may be called the great Physician of the Kingdom.
From whence it appears and is self evident if Parliaments are so absolutely necessary in this our constitution, That they must then have their certain stationary times of Session, and continuance, for providing Laws, essentially necessary for the being, as well as the well being of the People; and Redressing all publick Grievances, either by the want of Laws, or of the undue Execution of them in being, or otherwise. And suitable hereunto are those Provisions made by the Wisdom of our Ancestors as recorded by them both in the Common and Statute-Law:
First, What we find hereof in the Common Law.
The Common Law, (saith my Lord Coke), is that which is founded in the immutable Law and light of Nature, agreeable to the Law of God, requiring Order, Government, Subjection and Protection, &c. Containing ancient usages, Warrented by Holy Scripture, and because it is generally given to all, it is therefore called Common.
And further saith, That in the Book called The Mirror of Justice appeareth the whole frame of the ancient common Laws of this Realm from the time of K. Arthur, 516. till near the Conquest; which Treats also of the Officers as well as the diversity and Distinction of the Courts of Justice (which are Officinae Legis) and particularly of the High Court of Parliament by the name of Council General or Parliament; so called from Parler-la-ment, speaking judicially his mind: And amongst others gives us the following Law of King Alfred who Reigned about 880.
Le Roy Alfred Ondeigna pur usage perpetual que a deux foits per l’an ou plus sovene pur mistier in temps de peace se Assembler a Londres, pur Parliamenter surle guidement del people de dieu coment gents soy garderent de pechers, viverent in quiet, receiverent droit per certain usages et saints’ Judgments.
King Alfred Ordaineth for a usage perpetual, that twice a year or oftner if need be, in time of peace, they shall Assemble themselves at London, to Treat in Parliament of the Government of the People of God, how they should keep themselves from Offences, should live in quiet, and should receive right by certain Laws and holy Judgments.
And thus (saith my Lord Coke) you have a Statute of K. Alfred as well concerning the holding of this Court of Parliament twice every year at the City of London, as to manifest the threefold end of this great and Honourable Assembly of Estates; As,
First, That the Subject might be kept from offending; that is, that Offences might be prevented both by good and provident Laws, and by the due Execution thereof.
Secondly, That men might live safely and in quiet.
Thirdly, That all men might receive Justice by certain Laws and holy Judgments; that is, to the end that Justice might be the better administered, that Questions and Defects in Laws might be by the High Court of Parliament planed, reduced to certainty and adjudged. And further tells us that this Court being the most Supream Court of this Realm, is a part of the frame of the Common Laws, and in some cases doth proceed Legally, according to the ordinary course of the Common Law, as it appeereth, 39 E. 3. f. Coke Inst. ch. 29. fol. 5. To be short, of this Court it is truly said, Si vetestatem spectes est antiquissima, si dignitatem est honoratissima, si jurisdictionem est capacissima. If you regard Antiquity, it is the most Ancient, if Dignity the most Honourable, if Jurisdiction the most Soveraign.
And where question hath been made whether this Court continued during the Heptarchy, let the Records themselves make answer, of which he gives divers Instances in the times of King Ine, Offa, Ethelbert. After the Heptarchy, K. Edward Son of Alfred, K. Ethelston, Edgar, Ethelred, Edmond, Canutus. All which (he saith) and many more are extant and publickly known; proving by divers arguments, that there were Parliaments, unto which the Knights and Burgesses were summoned both before, in, and after the Reign of the Conqueror, till Hen. 3. time; and for your further satisfaction herein, see 4. E. 3. 25. 49 Ed. 3. 22, 23. 11 H. 4. 2. Litl. lib. 2. c. 10.
Whereby we may understand,
1. That Parliaments are part of the frame of the Common Law, [which is laid in the Law and Light of Nature, right Reason and Scripture].
2. That according to this Moral Law of Equity and Righteousness, Parliaments ought frequently to meet for the common peace, safety and benefit of the People, and support of the Government.
3. That Parliaments have been all along esteemed an essential part of the Government, as being the most ancient, honourable and Soveraign Court in the Nation, who are frequently and perpetually to sit, for the making and abolishing Laws, Redressing of Grievances, and see to the due administration of Justice.
4. That as to the place of Meeting, it was to be at London the Capital City, the Eye and Heart of the Nation, as being not only the Regal Seat, but the principal place of Judicature, and residence of the chief Officers, and Courts of Justice, where also the Records are kept, as well as the principal place of Commerce and Concourse in the Nation, and to which the People may have the best recourse, and where they may find the best accomodation.
5. The Antiquity of Parliaments in this Nation, which have been so ancient that no Record can give any account of their Beginning, my Lord Coke thus tracing from the Brittans, through the Saxons, Danes and Normans to our days.
So that not to suffer Parliaments to sit to answer the great ends for which they were Instituted, is expressely contrary to the Common Law, and so consequently of the Law of God as well as the Law of Nature, and thereby Violence is offered to the Government itself, and Infringement of the People’s fundamental Rights and Liberties.
Secondly, What we find hereof in the Statute-Law.
The Statute Laws are Acts of Parliament which are (or ought to be) only Declaratory of the Common Law, which as you have heard is founded upon right Reason and Scripture; for we are told, that if anything is enacted contrary thereto, it is void and null: As Coke Inst. 1. 2. c. 29. f. 15. Finch p. 3. 28 H. 8. c. 27. Doct. and Stud.
The first of these Statutes which require the frequent Meeting and Sitting of Parliaments, agreeable to the Common Law, we find to be in the time of Ed. 3. viz. 4 Ed. 3. & ch. 14. In these words:
Item it is accorded that a Parliament shall be holden every Year once, or more often if need be.
The next is in the 36 of the same K. Ed. 3. c. 10. viz.
Item, For the maintenance of the said Articles and Statutes, and Redressing of divers Mischiefs and Grievances which daily happen, A Parliament shall be holden every year, as at another time was ordained by a Statute, viz. the aforementioned, in his 4th year. And agreeable hereto, are those Statutes upon the Rolls, viz. 5 Ed. 2.-1 R. 2. No. 95.
By which Statutes it appeareth, that Parliaments ought Annually to meet, to support the Government, and to redress the Grievances which may happen in the Interval of Parliaments; That being the great End proposed in their said Meetings. Now, For Parliaments to meet Annually, and not suffered to sit to Answer the Ends, but to be Prorogued or Dissolved before they have finished their Work, would be nothing but a deluding the Law, and a striking at the foundation of the Government itself, and rendering Parliaments altogether Useless; for it would be all one to have No Parliaments at all, as to have them turned off by the Prince before they have done that they were called and intrusted to do. For by the same Rule whereby they may be so turned off One Session, they may be three Sessions, and so to threescore, to the breaking of the Government, and introducing Arbitrary Power. To Prevent such intollerable Mischiefs and Inconveniencies, are such good Laws as these made in this King’s time, and which were so Sacredly observed in after times, That it was a Custom, especially in the Reigns of Henry 4. Henry 5. Henry 6. to have a Proclamation made in Westminster-Hall before the end of every Session, That all those who had any matter to present to the Parliament, should bring it in before such a day, for otherwise the Parliament at that Day should Determine. Whereby it appears the People were not to be eluded nor disappointed by surprizing Prorogations and Dissolutions, to frustrate and make void the great ends of Parliaments.
And to this purpose saith a late Learned Author, That if there was no Statute, or anything upon record extant, concerning the Parliament’s sitting to redress grievances, yet that I must believe, that it is so by the fundamental Law of the Government, which must be Lame and imperfect without it; [For, otherwise the Prince and his Ministers may do what they please, and their Wills may be their Laws].
Therefore it is provided for in the very Essence and Constitution of the Government itself; and this (saith our Author) we may call the Common Law, which is of as much value (if not more) than any Statute, and of which all our good Acts of Parliament and Magna Charta, itself is but Declaratory; so that though the King is intrusted with the formal part of summoning and pronouncing the dissolution of Parliaments, which is done by Writ; yet the Laws which Oblige him (as well as us) have determined how, and when he shall do it; which is enough to shew, that the King’s share in the Soveraignty, that is in the Parliament, is cut out to him by Law, and not left at his disposal.
The Next Statute we shall mention, to inforce this fundamental Right and Priviledge, is the 25th Ed. 3. ch. 23. called the Statute of Provisors, which was made to prevent and Cut off the Incroachments of the Bishops of Rome, whose Usurpations in disposing of Benefices occasioned intollerable Grievances, wherein, in the Preamble of the said Statute, it is expressed as followeth.
Whereupon the Commons have prayed our said Soveraign Lord the King, that sith the Right of the Crown of England, and the Law of the said Realm is such, that upon the Mischiefs and Damage which happeneth to his Realm, he ought and is bounden of the accord of his said People in his Parliament, thereof to make Remedy and Law, in avoiding the Mischiefs and Damage which thereof cometh; That it may please him thereupon to provide Remedy. Our Soveraign Lord the King seeing the Mischiefs and Damage before named, and having regard to the said Statute made in the time of his said Grandfather, and to the Causes contained in the same, which Statute holdeth always his force, and was never defeated or annulled in any point, and by so much is bound by his Oath to do the same, to be kept as the Law of this Realm, though that by Sufferance and Negligence it hath since been attempted to the contrary. And also having regard to the grievous Complaints made to him by his People in divers Parliaments holden heretofore, Willing to ordain Remedy for the great Damages and Mischiefs which have happened and daily do happen by the said Cause, &c. By the assent of all the great Men and Commonality of his said Realm, hath Ordained and Established, &c.
In which preamble of the Statute we may observe, (1.) The intollerable grievance and burden, which was occassioned by the illegal Incroachments of the See of Rome. (2.) The many Complaints the People had made, who in those dark times, under Popery were sensible of, groaning under those Burdens. (3.) The Endeavours used in vain by former Parliaments to Redress the same, And to bring their Laws in being, to have their Force and Effect. (4.) The acknowledgment of the King and Parliament, that the Obligation hereto was upon the King.
(1.) From the Right of the Crown, which obliged every King to pass good Laws. (2.) The Statute in force. (3.) The King’s Oath to keep the Old and pass new Laws for his People’s safeguard, which they should tender to him. (4.) From the sence of the People, expressed in their Complaints; and, (5.) From the Mischief and Damage which would otherwise ensue.
And therefore by the desire and accord of his People, He passes this famous Law. The Preamble whereof, is here recited.
Another Statute to the same purpose you find 2. R. 2. No. 28
Also the Commons in Parliament, pray, that for as much as Petitions and Bills presented in Parliament by divers of the Commons, could not heretofore have their Respective Answers; That therefore both their Petitions and Bills in this present Parliament, as also others which shall be presented in any future Parliament, may have a good and Gracious Answer and Remedy ordained thereupon before the departing of every Parliament: And that to this purpose, a due Statute be ensealed [or Enacted] at this present Parliament, to be and remain in Force for all times to come.
To which the King Replied:
The King’s Answer.
THE King is pleased that all such Petitions delivered in Parliament, of things (or matters) which cannot otherwise be determined; A good and Reasonable Answer shall be made and given before the Departure of Parliament.
In which excellent Law we may observe, (1.) A Complaint of former remisness, their Bills having aforetime been passed by, their Grievances Unredressed, by unseasonably Dissolving of Parliaments before their Laws could pass. (2.) That a Law might pass in that very Parliament to rectifie that Abuse for the future. And, (3.) That it should not pass for a temporary Law, but for perpetuity being of such absolute Necessity, that before the Parliaments be dismissed, Bills of common Right might pass.
And the King agreed hereto.
Suitable hereto, we have my Lord Chief Justice Coke, that great Oracle of the Law, in his Instit. 4. B. p. 11. Asserting, Petitions being truly preferred (though very many) have been Answered by the Law and Custom of Parliament, before the end of Parliament.
This appears saith he, by the ancient Treatise De Mode tenendi Parliamentum, in these Words faithfully Translated. The Parliament ought not to be ended while any Petition dependeth undiscussed, or at the least to which a determinate Answer is not made. Rot. Par. 17. E. 3. No. 60. 25 E. 3. No. 60. 50 E. 3. No. 212. 2 R. 2. 134. 2. R. 2. No. 38. 1 H. 4. 132. 2 H. 4. 325. 113.
And that one of the principal ends of calling Parliaments, is for redressing of Grievances that daily happen, 36 E. 3. c. 10. 18 E. 3. c. 14. 50 E. 3. No. 17. Lyons Case, Rot. Par. 1. H. 5. No. 17. 13 H. 4. No. 9.
And that as concerning the departing of Parliaments, It ought to be in such a manner: saith Modus Tenendi. viz. To be demanded, yea and publickly Proclaimed in the Parliament, and within the Palace of the Parliament, whether there be any that hath delivered a Petition to the Parliament, and hath not received Answer thereto; if there be none such, it is to be supposed, that every one is Satisfied, or else Answered unto at the least, so far forth as by the Law he may be. And which custom was observed in after Ages, as you have heard before.
Concerning the Antiquity and Authority of this Ancient Treatise, called Modus tenendi Parliamentum (saith my Lord Coke) whereof we make often use in our Institutes: Certain it is, that this Modus wasRehearsed and Declared before the Conqueror at the time of his Conquest, and by him approved for England, and accordingly he according to Modus held a Parliament for England, as appears 21 E. 3. fo. 60.
Whereby you clearly perceive, that these wholsome Laws are not only in full agreement with the Common Law and declarative thereof, but in full accord with the Oath and Office of the Prince, who has that great trust by the Law lodged with him for the good and benefit, not hurt and mischief of the People, viz.
First, these Laws are very suitable to the Office and Duty of a Ruler, and the end for which he was instituted by God himself, who commands him to do Judgment, and Justice to all; especially, to the Oppressed, and not to deny them any request for their relief, protection or welfare, 2. Sam. 22.3. 1 Chron. 13.1, to 5. 2 Chron. 184.108.40.206. &c. Est. 1. 13. Our Law Books enjoining the same, as Bracton Lib. 1. c.2. Lib. 3. c.9. fol. 107. &c. Fortiscue, ch. 9. so. 15.c.7. fol. 5. 11. Coke 7. Book Reports, Calvin’s Case f. 11.
Secondly, they are also in full Harmony with the King’s Coronation Oath Solemnly made to all his Subjects, viz. To grant, fullfil, and defend all rightful Laws which the Commons of the Realm shall choose, and to strengthen and maintain them after his Power.
Thirdly, These Laws are also in full agreement, and oneness with Magna Charta itself, that Antient Fundamental Law which hath been Confirmed by at least Forty Parliaments, viz. We shall deny, We shall defer to no Man Justice and Right, much less to the whole Parliament and Kingdom, in denying or deferring to pass such necessary Bills which the People’s needs call for.
Object. But to all this which hath been said, it may be objected, That several of our Princes have otherwise practised by Dissolving or [as laterly used, by] Proroguing Parliaments at their pleasures, before Grievances were Redressed, and Publick Bills of Common Safety Passed, and that as a Priviledge, belonging to the Royal Prerogative.
Answ.To which it is Answered, That granting they have so done: First, it is most manifest that doth not therefore create a right to them so to do; according to that known maxime, a facto ad jus non valet Consequentia, especially, when such Actions are against so many express and positive Laws, such Principles of Common Right and Justice, and so many particular Ties and Obligations upon themselves to the contrary.
Secondly, But if it had been so, yet neither can Prerogative be pleaded to Justify such Practices, because the King has no Prerogative, but what the Law gives him; and it can give none to destroy itself, and those it protects, but the contrary. Bracton in his Comments, pag. 487. tells us, That although the Common Law doth allow many Prerogatives to the King, yet it doth not allow any, that He shall wrong, or hurt any by his Prerogative. Therefore ’tis well said, by a late Worthy Author upon this point, That what Power or Prerogative the Kings have in Them, ought to be used according to the true and genuine intent of the Government; that is for the Preservation and Interest of the People. And not for the disappointing the Councils of a Parliament, towards reforming Grievances, and making provision for the future Execution of the Laws; and whenever it is applied to frustrate those ends, it is a Violation of Right, and Infringment of the King’s Coronation Oath, who is obliged to Pass or Confirm those Laws His People shall chuse. And tho He had such a Prerogative by Law, yet it should not be used, especially in time of Eminent danger and distress. The late King in his Advice to his Majesty that now is, in his Eikon Basilike 239. Tells him that his Prerogative is best shewed, and exercised, in Remitting, rather than exacting the Rigor of the Laws, there being nothing worse than Legal Tyranny.
Nor would he have him entertain any Aversion or Dislike of Parliaments, which in their right Constitution, with freedom and honour, will never Injure or Diminish His Greatness, but will rather be as interchangings of Love, Loyalty and Confidence, between a Prince and his People.
It is true, some Flatterers and Traitors have presumed, in defiance to their Countries’ Rights, to assert that such a boundless Prerogative belongs to Kings. As did Chief Justice Trisilian, &c. in Richard 2’s time; Advising him that he might Dissolve Parliaments at pleasure; and, that no Member should be called to Parliament, nor any Act past in either House, without His Approbation in the first place; and, that whoever advised otherwise were Traitors. But this Advice you read was no less Fatal to himself, than Pernicious to his Prince. Baker’s Chron. p. 147, 148, and 159.
King James in his Speech to the Parliament 1609. Gives them assurance, That he never meant to Govern by any Law, but the Law of the Land; tho it be disputed among them, as if he had an intention to alter the Law; and Govern by the absolute power of a King; but to put them out of doubt in that matter, tells them, That all Kings who are not Tyrants, or Perjured, will bound themselves within the limits of their Laws. And they that persuade the contrary, are Vipers and Pests, both against them and the Common-wealth. Wilson. K. J. p. 46.
1. If this be so, That by so great Authority (viz. so many Statutes in force, The fundamentals of the Common Law, the Essentials of the Government itself, Magna Charta, The King’s Coronation Oath, so many Laws of God and Man); the Parliament ought to sit to Redress Grievances and provide for Common Safety, especially in times of Common Danger. (And that this is eminently so, who can doubt, that will believe the King; so many Parliaments, The Cloud of Witnesses, the Publick Judicatures, their own sense and experience of the manifold Mischiefs which have been acted, and the apparent Ruine and Confusion that impends the Nation, by the restless Attempts of a bloody Interest, if speedy Remedy is not applied.)
Then let it be Queried, Whether the People having thus the Knife at the Throat, Cities and Habitations Fired, and therein their Persons fried, Invasions and Insurrections threatened to Destroy the King and Subjects, Church and State; and as so lately told us, (upon Mr. Fitz Harris’s commitment),2 the present Design on Foot was to Depose and Kill the King; and their only remedy hoped for under God to give them Relief thus from time to time, Cut off, viz. Their Parliaments, who with so much care, cost and pains are Elected, sent up, and Intrusted for their help, turned off re infecta,3 and rendered so insignificant by those frequent Prorogations and Dissolutions.
Are they not therefore justified in their important Cries, in their many Humble Petitions to their King, Fervent Addresses to their Members, earnest Claims for this their Birthright here Pleaded, which the Laws of the Kingdom, consonant to the Laws of God and Nature, has given them?
2. If so, what then shall be said to those who advise to this high Violation of their Countrie’s Rights, to the infringing so many just Laws, and exposing the Publick to those desperate hazards, if not a total Ruine?
If King Alfred (as Andrew Horne in his Mirror of Justice tells us) hanged Darking, Segnor, Cedwine, Cole, and Forty Judges more, for Judging contrary to Law; and yet all those false Judgments were but in particular and private Cases; What Death do those Men deserve, who offer this violence to the Law itself, and all the Sacred Rights of their Country? If the Lord Chief Justice Thorp in Edward 3’s time, for receiving the Bribery of One hundred pounds was adjudged to be Hanged as one that had made the King break his Oath to the People; How much more guilty are they of making the King break his Coronation Oath that perswade him to Act against all the Laws for holding Parliaments, and passing Laws therein, which he is so solemnly sworn to do? And if the Lord Chief Justice Tresilian was Hanged, Drawn, and Quartered for Advising the King to Act contrary to some Statutes only; what do those deserve that advise the King to Act not only against some, but against all these Ancient Laws and Statutes of the Realm?
And if Blake the King’s Council but for Assisting in the Matter and drawing up Indictments by the King’s Command contrary to Law, though it is likely he might Plead the King’s Order for it, yet if he was Hanged, Drawn and Quartered for that, what Justice is due to them that assist in the Total Destruction of all the Laws of the Nation, and as much as in them lies, their King and Country too? And if Usk the under Sherif (whose Office it is to Execute the Laws) for but endeavouring to aid Tresilian, Blake and their Accomplices against some of the Laws, was also with Five more Hanged, Drawn and Quartered; What punishment may they deserve that Aid and endeavour the Subvertion of all the Laws of the Kingdom? And if Empson and Dudley in Henry the Eight’s time, though two of the King’s privy Councel, were Hanged for Procuring and Executing an Act of Parliament contrary to the Fundamental Laws of the Kingdom, and to the great vexation of the People; so that though they had an Act of Parliament of their side, yet that Act being against the known Laws of the Land, were Hanged as Traitors for putting that Statute in Execution: then what shall become of those who have no such Act to shelter themselves under, and who shall Act not only contrary to, but to the Destruction of the Fundamental Laws of the Kingdom, and how Harmonious such Justice will be, the Text tells us, Deut. 27.17. Cursed be he that removeth his Neighbour’s Landmark: and all the People shall say, Amen.
That this present Session may have a happy Issue, to answer the great ends of Parliaments, and therein our present Exigencies and Necessities, is the incessant Cry and longing Expectation of all the Protestants in the Land.
Parliament and the Succession
[1. ]Charles II’s brother James, Duke of York.
[2. ]Edward Fitzharris was an Irish Catholic informer employed by the Court against the Whigs. The House of Commons attempted to impeach him, presumably in hopes of implicating Danby and the Duke of York in the Popish Plot. When the Lords refused to cooperate the Commons passed a resolution of the House of Commons that no inferior court could proceed against Fitzharris. Nevertheless he was brought to trial in King’s Bench in 1681 charged with a seditious libel and an intent to bring in the French to overthrow the king. He was found guilty and executed.
[3. ]An incomplete thing.