Front Page Titles (by Subject) A compleat History of the late Septennial Parliament; wherein all their Proceedings are particularly enquired into, and faithfully related; with proper Remarks, and many secret Memoirs interspersed, concerning the late Times. To which is prefixed, Hones - A Collection of Tracts, vol. 2
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A compleat History of the late Septennial Parliament; wherein all their Proceedings are particularly enquired into, and faithfully related; with proper Remarks, and many secret Memoirs interspersed, concerning the late Times. To which is prefixed, Hones - John Trenchard, A Collection of Tracts, vol. 2 
A Collection of Tracts. By the Late John Trenchard, Esq; and Thomas Gordon, Esq; Vol. II. (London: F. Cogan, 1751).
Part of: A Collection of Tracts, 2 vols.
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A compleat History of the late Septennial Parliament; wherein all their Proceedings are particularly enquired into, and faithfully related; with proper Remarks, and many secret Memoirs interspersed, concerning the late Times. To which is prefixed, Honest Advice to the Freeholders of Great-Britain.
THIS Preface, to my History of the Septennial Parliament, is principally designed for the Freeholders of England. And I hope, after what I have communicated to the Public, there will be very little Occasion for much to be said, to biass Them in the Choice of proper Representatives, at the approaching Election.
I think that they ought, in Justice to Themselves, to be very cautious in the Electing many of our late Representatives; I would have them well consider of their past Behaviour, before they venture to chuse them again; they have already done Mischief sufficient, and more than their Children, or even their Grand-children, will ever see remedied.
But as several Members of the last Parliament were made by the worst of Means; by double and false Returns, by Bribery, and every Thing else that could promise and foretel Miseries to the Subject, what could we expect but extraordinary and unprecedented Proceedings from Them?
If in the present Election, the like Measures should be taken, our future Parliament, instead of retrieving the late Misconducts, will undoubtedly compleat the Ruin their Brethren not only begun, but made such a Progress in: I must therefore warn all our Freeholders of this just Apprehension; and endeavour to rouse them from a Negligence and Supineness which may be otherwise fatal to these Kingdoms.
I am to tell them, That if they put themselves on the Footing of Slavery, by selling themselves, they must expect nothing less than Slavery, and then to be abject Slaves: That the Members of Parliament do not Buy without an Intention of Selling them; and that, by Means of Bribery and Corruption, they may sell their latest Posterity (and many others) as well as themselves.
This should be well weighed and considered: And further, if they accept of Bribes, through the Necessity of the Times, this will, in a very short Space, encrease their Necessities, because the Times will inevitably grow worse, by the Management of corrupt Members; and none but corrupt Members will offer them Bribes. And if Elections are publickly bought in a certain Alley, may not our Liberties be as publickly sold in a more noted Place?
A great many ill Men will endeavour to squeeze themselves into Boroughs, in the present Election, to be thereby skreened from the just Resentment of an injured People. I hope our Electors will be upon their Guard against these Men, who are Enemies to the Public. It will be a Step to public Justice to oppose them, and a Justice to themselves to spew them out with Contempt and Ignominy.
Our Electors are in the reverse Condition to the Wife of Lot: They have the last Necessity of looking back, at the same time they look forward; and they must not, like Watermen, look one Way and row another; if they do, they will not, like them, escape the Rocks and Dangers in their Passage.
They must be steady and indefatigable in pursuit of what alone can make us a happy People; in the Pursuit of Honesty and Integrity. They must not be tempted by the golden Apple; nor their Wives and Partners of their Cares be misled, to influence them, by the Intrigues of Men, who will espouse them only till their Election is sure.
I shall wind up all with this short Advice to our Freeholders, and other Electors. Let not such Members be chosen, for the future Parliament, who are suspected of being Pensioners to a Court, or who are capable of being bribed into Silence. Let none that advanced the Septennial Law, have your Votes and Interests; the Mischiefs from hence are but too apparent. Those worthy Gentlemen who had provided us Barracs, and themselves Palaces, are by all Means to be excluded: So are likewise our South-Sea Scheme-men, and the Setters up of Bubbles; the Rejectors of good Laws, and the Enactors of bad ones. Let not those be elected, who are the Skreeners of Villains, aud Plunderers of the Public.
Chuse such for your Representatives, who are fit to represent you; such as are just, honest, and uncorrupted; such as have Estates and Possessions amongst you, too great to be lost; such as will attend the Business of the Kingdom, upon all Occasions; and such as will repeal the bad Laws the last Parliament enacted, and enact the good ones they rejected.
Then will you acquit yourselves, like Englishmen; like Lovers of your Country, and of yourselves; and secure to Posterity those Blessings, that will make your Names and Memories venerable to future Ages.
A true History of the Septennial Parliament, &c.
WHENEVER any Thing has happened, in any Age or Country, that is memorable and extraordinary, whether it has a Tendency either to Good or Evil, it is no more than what is common for some bold and faithful Historian to transmit it to Posterity.
That we have in our Times, had great and extraordinary Events, none will be so bold as to deny: We have seen, and that fatally too, that every Thing may be in Danger under the plausible Appearance of doing Good; that Men of all Ranks and Degrees have, without Distinction, plundered one another; that the Widow and the Orphan have been totally despoiled, to add to the Grandeur of public Robbers (for such I must term the Authors of our Miseries) that Honour and Honesty, in most Parts of the Globe, have nothing remaining but their very Names; and that even common Humanity is banished this Kingdom.
I do not wholly attribute this Depravity of human Nature to the powerful Influence of the Parliament of Britain; but as Examples are in all Cases forcible, and incite Imitation, I cannot excuse our late Representatives; many of whom have been justly prosecuted for unprecedented Crimes, some been imprisoned, some accused of Bribery, and many of Corruption; and if they have not met with the Punishment that has been their Due, it has not been owing to the Innocence of themselves, or of their Judges and Companions.
A general Corruption spread its baleful Qualities throughout the whole Body; they sported at the Calamities of the Persons they represented; they relieved their Fellow-Subjects, by taking farther from them; and with some other Persons, they endeavoured to dispose of the Remainder of their Properties; as if, to take away a Half or two Thirds of our Fortunes, were not enough, without stripping us of All.
So much Mischief has been done in one fatal Year, that a History of that alone would furnish a Volume; so black a Catalogue of Crimes, I am confident, never appeared against any Set of Men, as some lately in Power; and though the South Sea Directors were the apparent Actors in this national Tragedy, yet others were concerned with them. We have had L—ds and C———ns accused of taking Bribes, who accepted of Stock, to pass a Law for the Ruin of their Country; for what could it mean but universal Ruin, where a Company of Sharpers had an unlimited Power to act as they pleased, by Authority of Law.
I never knew till lately, nor I dare say any other, that an Act of Parliament of any Importance relating to the Public (as this was the greatest) was wholly without one single Proviso, or conditional Clause; as was the Case of this Law. There was granted every where Power to cheat and defraud, and no where any Guard provided against it; as though in the Affairs of Money, and of the Cash of a Kingdom, where there is the greatest Temptation to be Rogues, all were to be supposed to be honest Men, and not so much as one to be suspected.
If this Statute was drawn up by the South Sea Directors, or any Council employed by them, and the Members of Parliament were actually bribed into it (by the Acceptance of Stock, or otherwise) as one would think it might, there is no Infamy or Calumny so great as they do not deserve: And if, speaking more favourably, they were drawn into it, either by Surprise, or want of considering it, or through their own Ignorance, they are even then justly to be blamed; for the Consequence is the same, whether a Man, or a Society of Men, be robbed of Possessions, either by the Design or Negligence of the Agents concerned.
We read of an Insanum Parliamentum, in the Reign of King Henry III. But what Title will be due to the Septennial Parliament, beyond its common Acceptation, I leave the Members themselves, as well as some future Historian, to judge. I do not say they were an Assembly of R—bb—rs (such an Expression is too harsh for me to be guilty of) but if any other Persons had taken the same Pains to ease us of our Money, as they have done, we should have justly conferred the Title upon them. There is not a Man in the Kingdom (not let into the Secret) but has been a Sufferer by them; and the just Complaints and Petitions of the Injured, who have only petitioned for their own, have been rejected with Scorn and Indignation.
It was never questioned, till in the late Times, that an injured and oppressed Subject had a Right in a peaceable manner to petition for Relief, at least to those who were only Servants to the Public: But alas! this has been disputed; and our Servants, whom we invested with Power to take Care of our Rights, Liberties, and Properties, have been the greatest Invaders of them; and instead of advancing, have prevented our Redress; which I think is apparent in the Case of the subscribing Annuitants.
Indeed, in the Upper House of Parliament, we have had Patriots, who have exerted themselves for the public Welfare, to their immortal Honour: A noble Peer, who lately adorned the highest Station in our Courts of Judicature, has shewn his Eloquence like a Cicero, though he had not Cicero’s Success; but we have not now a Roman Age, or a Roman People, to expect it. He early protested (joined by many others, the true Protectors of our Liberties) against what was pernicious to the Public, and which occasioned the altering some of our Laws; but the great Law (the Law of Ruin) which he gloriously opposed, it was not in this Power, after all his Endeavours, and arduous Struggles, to prevent or annul.
It is more to the Honour of this noble Lord, and his glorious Associates, that they have made this Stand against the enacting of some Laws, than to be Makers of all the Laws some Parliaments have passed, and particularly the late one, though it has been of longer Duration than any Parliament since that of the Rump, to which, its Proceedings, in many Instances, may be very justly compared.
But when I give myself a Liberty of speaking of the Septennial Parliament, I would not be thought to mean every Member of it. There were several very honest well-meaning Gentlemen in it (and some I could particularly mention) who would not, on any Terms, be the Authors of Miseries to their Fellow-Subjects; but these were but few in Number, and (what has been the greatest Excuse to them) there always appeared a great Majority against them.
Yet so much have our Parliaments in general in this Age degenerated from their ancient Constitution, that as formerly they were composed of all Men of Honour, Honesty, and Integrity, and Patriots of their Country’s Service, we have lately seen a Member of the House of Commons, convicted at a Bar of Justice, of the highest and blackest Frauds; one supposed to be a Confederate with Highwaymen and Pick-pockets; from whence one might imagine, that some of the excellent Qualities instilled into the Pupils of the famous Jonathan Wild, were a necessary Qualification for a M———r of P———t.
For what is as strange, as the other is monstrous, our Houses of Parliament have suffered one thus convicted of Frauds and Deceits, to have the Honour to sit with them, without voting his Expulsion, which is a sufficient Scandal to that August Assembly; though I do not pretend to insinuate from this, that they are all equally guilty with the Criminal condemned, whatever Construction may be some Persons be put upon their Silence.
If punishing the Guilty, be an Argument of Innocence in the Persons condemning, this should have been done: And I for my Part, if I had been a Representative of the Septennial Parliament, and were to have sat in the House but three Hours longer, I should not have been easy till I had voted an Expulsion of an unworthy Member, who was a Reproach to the Whole; I should have endeavoured to sit at least two of the Hours free from the Imputation of looking over Crimes.
A Negligence of this Kind is undoubtedly criminal; Crimes are inferred from it; and it certainly behov’d every Member of the House of Commons, whether guilty or not of Offences of the like Nature, to have excluded him their Body; because without it, they not only bring a Disgrace upon themselves, but also upon future Parliaments which shall be their Successors.
We have experienced Negligences of Omission as well as Commission: We have had slender Houses on the greatest Debates, in Matters of the greatest Importance; some Members have withdrawn for one Reason, some for another; some out of a Consciousness of their own Guilt; some to serve some great Person; others in Expectation of Places and Preferments, and others perhaps for M———. It is not long since that above Sixty withdrew in the Space of a Day, when a Case of Bribery, laid to the Charge of a Minister of Justice, was tried at their Bar.
Oh England! what wilt thou come to, if the Executioners of thy Laws, and those who ought to be the Punishers of Crimes, are found to be guilty, and the Promoters of them! But what can we say, when Bribery is so common, as to have little or no Notice; like a beauteous prostituted Whore, who by Custom becomes fashionable, and the Object of Esteem, in a vicious Age. Whether this be a proper Allusion, I submit to the Dalers in Elections, who buy their Seats in the Parliament House, in order to sell their Country, and stock-job Boroughs in Exchange Alley, with no other Views than to secure to the Purchasers a National Plunder, or Places of Profit at the public Cost.
As to what has happened for some Years past, great have been the Artifices used to make Corruption universal; one Member of Parliament has endeavoured to corrupt another, to justify his own Conduct; as if by Numbers of Guilty, Innocence were preserved: One has laughed at another who has been less in the Mire than himself, and at all Times given his helping Hand to plunge him into Circumstances equal with himself: And Honesty and Plain-dealing have been so long ridiculed, that, besides the Jest of it, Ruin and Destruction are the general Attendants that wait upon them.
This is a melancholy Reflection, and very discouraging to all honest Spirits; it makes Life almost a Burthen to a religious and even a moral Mind; but such is our Case, and it must be submitted to; though not upon the whole, to be imputed to our Senators; but this I must own, they have had a very great Share in these direful Misfortunes, which have rushed in upon us like a Torrent, and overset every thing.
Thus much as an Introduction to what I have to say: I shall now examine into the several Proceedings of the Septennial Parliament, which will set what I have asserted in a clearer Light, by illustrating that which has been the Foundation of it, and make appear particularly what our great Representatives have done for the public Benefit, and what they have done with more private Views; what they have designed in favour of Liberty, and what they have done against it; what they have transacted to favour Religion, and in what they have checked it; and lastly, what has been enacted with the Wisdom of Senators, and what has been done thro’ Ignorance or Error.
Soon after the Accession of King George to the Crown, a new Parliament was called, and in the first Year of his Reign a great many Statutes were enacted: The first Act was for the better Support of his Majesty’s Houshold: It granted the Duties of Excise upon Beer, Ale, and other Liquors, that were granted to King Charles II. King William and Queen Mary, and the late Queen, to his present Majesty: And to extinguish the Hopes of the Pretender and his Friends, it ordered a Reward of 100,000 l. to any Person who should seize and secure the Person of the Pretender, whenever he should land, or attempt to land, in any of his Majesty’s Dominions.
This was the first Law made in this Reign; and I have no Comment on the Christian Usage of setting a Price upon any Man’s Head, though it may be here expected from me. The first Laws enacted by the Septennial Parliament were for granting an Aid to his Majesty, to be raised by a Land Tax of 2 s. in the Pound, for the Service of the Year; and for charging and continuing the Duties on Malt, Mum, Cyder, &c. And these were necessary for the Support of the Honour and Dignity of the Crown on his most excellent Majesty’s coming to the Throne.
Other Statutes were for further Limitation of the Crown; for the better regulating the Forces; for preventing Mutiny and Desertion; for the further Security of his Majesty’s Person and Government, and the Succession of the Crown; for making the Militia more useful; for Payment of Arrears for Work and Materials employed in the Building Blenheim House; for the Attainder of James Duke of Ormond, Henry Viscount Bolingbroke, and others, of High Treason; for encouraging all Superiors, Vassals, Landlords, and Tenants, in Scotland, who shall continue loyal to King George, and discouraging those as shall be guilty of rebellious Practices; for enabling his Majesty to settle a Revenue of 50,000 l. per Annum (to be paid out of the Revenues of the Post-Office and the Duties of Excise) on her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, in case she shall survive his Royal Highness the Prince: The Revenue of the Prince, as first settled by Parliament, was 100,000 l. a Year, out of the Duties of the Post-Office, &c. And out of the Subsidies of Tonnage and Pound-age, the King has 700,000 l. a Year allowed him for Supporting of his Houshold.
Besides these Laws, many others were enacted; as for enlarging the Capital Stock of the South Sea Company; for appointing Commissioners to take, examine, and state the Debts due to the Army; to prevent Disturbances by Seamen and others, and to preserve Naval Stores; to impower his Majesty to secure and detain Persons suspected to be conspiring against his Government, to indemnify such Perions who acted in Defence of his Majesty’s Person and Government, and for the Preservation of the Peace, in the Time of Rebellion, from Suits and Prosecutions; to appoint Commissioners for enquiring into the Estates of Traitors, and Popish Recusants, and for raising Money out of them for the Use of the Public, &c.
But the most extraordinary Laws that were made, during this Session of Parliament, were, the Statute for repealing so much of the Act of the 12th and 13th of King William, intitled, An Act for the further Limitation of the Crown, and better Securing the Rights and Liberties of the Subject, as enacts, that no Person who should come to the Possession of the Crown, should go out of the Dominions of England, Scotland, or Ireland, without Consent of Parliament; the Act for the more easy and speedy Trial of such Persons as have levied, or shall levy War against his Majesty; and an Act for preventing Tumults, and riotous Assemblies.
By the former of these Laws, the Restraint on the Prerogative, which obliged the King to a constant Residence amongst us, is taken off; so that his Majesty may at his Pleasure, at any Time, go into his Foreign Dominions, or into any other Country, without any Account to, or Leave of, his Parliament; which in general Opinion has very much contributed to the Impoverishment of the Cities of London and Westminster, and doubtless had a different Effect as to some other Towns and Cities abroad. By the Second of these Statutes, Persons guilty of Treason, and who were in Arms in the Rebellion, were to be tried for the same before such Commissioners, and in such County as his Majesty should appoint; whereas before this Law, the Offenders were to be tried in the County where the Fact was committed, by Jurors of the same County, who were supposed to be the best Judges of the Fact committed, it being within their Knowledge: And by the last of the Laws I have mentioned, the Rioters were executed in Salisbury-court, as guilty of Felony, who, before this Law, would have been only punished with Fine and Imprisonment.
How far these Statutes, with the Act for enlarging the Time of Continuance of Parliaments from three to seven Years (also past in the first Session of the Septennial Parliament) have altered our Constitution, and the Rights and Liberties of the Subjects, built upon former Laws, is too obvious for me to expatiate upon. It was expected from our great Legislators, after a temporary Use of extraordinary Laws, made on an extraordinary Occasion, that when the Occasion ceased, the Laws would also cease; but this has been forgotten by them, as has also every Thing else, wherein they have not found their immediate Advantage.
In the second Session of the Septennial Parliament, few Acts were made. A Land-Tax of four Shillings in the Pound was granted, and the Duties on Malt, Mum, &c. for the Service of the Year, continued: Several Laws were made for redeeming the yearly Funds of the South-Sea Company, and the Bank of England; and settling on those Companies other yearly Funds, after the Rate of 5 l. per Cent. per Annum, redeemable by Parliament; and for obliging them to advance further Sums to the Government. There were also made, An Act for the better regulating of Pilots for the conducting of Ships up the River of Thames; for the better Preservation of the Game; for the better enabling Sheriffs to sue out their Patents and pass their Accounts; and an Act for the King’s most gracious, general, and free Pardon.
The last mentioned Law runs thus: “All his Majesty’s Subjects, as well Spiritual as Temporal, of the Realm of Great Britain, their Heirs and Successors, and all Cities, Boroughs, Shires, &c. shall be by the Authority of this Parliament, acquitted, pardoned, released and discharged, against the King, his Heirs and Successors, from all Treasons, Misprisions of Treasons, Felony, treasonable and seditious Words and Libels, seditious and unlawful Meetings, and all Offences of Premunire; and also from all Riots, Routs, Offences, Contempts, Trespasses, Wrongs, Deceits, Misdemeanors, Forfeitures, Penalties, Pains of Death, Pains corporal and pecuniary, and generally from all other Things, Causes, Quarrels, Suits, Judgments and Executions, in this Act not excepted, which have been committed, incurred, or forfeited, before the 6th of May, 1717.
The Exceptions in the Act extend to all such as were, on the said 6th of May in the Service of the Pretender; all who had levied War against his Majesty, &c. all voluntary Murders, petit Treasons, and wilful Poisonings, burning of Houses, Piracies, and Robberies on the Seas, Burglaries and Robberies, Sodomy and Buggery, Rapes, Perjury, Forgery, &c. and also particularly, as to Persons, Robert Earl of Oxford, Simon Lord Harcourt, Matthew Prior, Thomas Harvey, Arthur Moor, &c. Esquires; and all such Persons who had been impeached in Parliament before the 6th of May 1717, whose Impeachments remained undetermined.
The Exception in respect to Persons in subsequent Statutes, I think has been omitted; nor, by what has happened since, is it thought any Reflection on them, that they were ever inferted in any Exception: The Acquittal of the Earl of Oxford, after impeached by Parliament, and brought on his Trial, by a Disagreement of the two Houses, as to the Form and Manner of the Prosecution, especially of the House of Commons, sufficiently justifies the Conduct of that Earl, or sufficiently blackens the Character of others; for it cannot be supposed that the Niceties of Form only, should permit a Traitor to his Country to pass with Impunity in that High Court of Justice, unless there were some other Artifices used to skreen him from Punishment, such as it is said have been lately practised with the like Success.
Some will have it to be occasioned by a Disgust the chief Manager against him took at a Disappointment he met with in the satisfying his Desires after Places and Preferments (since liberally conferred on him and his Family, even to almost one hundred thousand Pounds a Year Revenue) but I take it to be a different Cause; and that no Opportunity but the Want of Matter sufficient for Conviction of Treason, gave the Occasion of the Acquittal of the Earl abovementioned.
But what may be the Reflections on this extraordinary Event? The Ax was carried before the Offender not to be used, but to amuse; to blacken and not to execute; to mock the most august Court of Judicature in the World; or to convince Mankind that the sharpest Edge of the most destructive Instrument, in the Hand of Justice, may be blunted by Metal more soft, and of a different Hue.
The third Session of this Parliament began with a Land-Tax, the usual Business, of three Shillings in the Pound: The Statute for Continuance of the Duties on Malt, &c. and for appropriating the Supplies granted in this Session of Parliament. And an Act was passed in this Session, to enable his Majesty to be Governor of the South Sea Company: The Statute enacted, That his Majesty is, and shall be, capable of being and continuing, Governor of the South Sea Company, for such Time or Times as are prescribed by the Charter granted to the said Company for the Continuance of any Governor therein: And his Majesty is exempted from the Oaths necessary to qualify a Subject to be Governor of the said Company, and all other Acts, unless it be relating to his Majesty’s Share of the Capital Stock. Thus was his Majesty qualified to be at the Head of a Set of Men who have plundered the Public.
The other Acts of this Session were for punishing Mutiny and Desertion, and for the better Payment of the Army and their Quarters: For vesting the forfeited Estates in Great Britain and Ireland in Trustees, to be sold for the Use of the Public: For impowering the Commissioners appointed to put in Execution the Act of the 9th and 10th Years of Queen Anne, for building fifty new Churches in and about the Cities of London and Westminster, to direct the Parish-Church of St. Giles’s in the Fields, in the County of Middlesex, to be rebuilt instead of one of the said fifty new Churches: And an Act for the further preventing Robbery, Burglary, and other Felonies, and for the more effectual Transportation of Felons.
The first of these Statutes is a temporary Law, often renewed, as the Exigency of Times requires it, to regulate that Body of Men who are the Guardians of our Liberties, next to the Laws, and the great Bulwark of the Protestant Succession, on which our Hopes (by no Means frustrated) have so much depended. The second mentioned Statute has indeed very well ordained, that the forfeited Estates should be vested in Trustees, viz. RichardGrantham, Esq; George Treby, Esq; Arthur Ingram, Esq; George Gregory, Esq; Sir Richard Steele, Sir Henry Houghton, Patrick Haldane, Esq; Sir Thomas Hales, Robert Munroe, Esq; Henry Cunningham, Esq; Denis Bond, Esq; John Birch, Esq; and Sir John Eyles, to be sold for the Use of the Public: But Quere how much of the Money arising by the Sales of these Estates has been hitherto appropriated to any public Use? I do not remember that any particular Disposition of this Money has been made by Parliament; and, till this appears, the Public has a Right, if not to enquire into it, at least to expect that it should be thus disposed of. The third mentioned Statute I have no Comment upon, further than to observe, that it was not intended by the Act made by Queen Anne, that fewer than fifty new Churches should be built in this City: But she was truly religious, and for encouraging the Church, which is more than can be said of all our Princes.
As to the Act for Transportation of Felons, it is the only good Law that has been made by the Septennial Parliament, which is put in Execution: It has freed us from a great many Robbers, Thieves, and Pick-pockets, who have been taken in the Facts; but the greatest Robbers, the Robbers of the Public, have escaped this Law; and if, instead of it, an Ordinance had been made for Transportation of the Parliament, before the Year one thousand seven hundred and twenty, it would have been happy for this Nation: We should then have escaped the general.
Transportation is the least a great many of our Members have deserved at our Hands; some have deserved more; many late Offenders have ended their Lives ignominiously at the Gallows, by far less criminal, and who have been driven to a Necessity of extraordinary Means for the Support of Life, through the extraordinary Conduct of some Persons, who, deserving the like Punishment, are in the Possession of Titles and Honours, Affluence and Plenty, and feed luxuriously on the Spoils of the Widow and Orphan. But the Poet has observed,
The Statute for Transportation of Felons, requires particular Notice, as it is a Law for the public Benefit; wherefore I insert an Abstract of the most material Part of it. By this Statute it is enacted, “That where any Persons have been convicted of any Offence within the Benefit of the Clergy, and are liable to be whipt or burnt in the Hand, or have been ordered to any Work-house before a certain Time: As also, where any Persons shall be hereafter convicted of grand or petit Larceny, or any felonious Stealing of Money, or Goods and Chattels, either from the Person or the House of any other, or in any other Manner, and who by Law shall be intitled to the Benefit of Clergy, and liable only to the Penalties of Burning in the Hand or Whipping (except Persons convicted for receiving or buying stolen Goods, knowing them to be stolen) it shall be lawful for the Court before whom they were convicted, or any Court held at the same Place, with like Authority, instead of ordering such Offenders to be burnt in the Hand, or whipt, to order that they shall be sent to some of his Majesty’s Plantations in America for seven Years; and that Court before whom they were convicted, or any subsequent Court held at the same Place, with like Authority as the former, shall have Power to transfer, and make over such Offenders, by Order of Court, to the Use of any Persons, and their Assigns, who shall contract for the Performance of such Transportation for seven Years: And where any Person shall be convicted or attainted of any Offences, for which Death, by Law, ought to be inflicted, and his Majesty shall extend his Royal Mercy to such Offenders, on Condition of Transportation to any Part of America, on such Intention of Mercy being signified by one of the principal Secretaries of State, it shall be lawful for any Court, having proper Authority, to allow such Offenders the Benefit of a Pardon, under the Great Seal, and to order the like Transportation to any Person who will contract for the Performance, and to his Assigns, of any such Offenders, for the Term of fourteen Years, if the Condition of Transportation be general, or else for such other Term as shall be made Part of the Condition, if any particular Time is limited by his Majesty: And the Persons contracting, or their Assigns shall, by Virtue of such Order of Transfer, have a Property in the Service of such Offenders for such Term of Years.
“Persons convicted of receiving or buying stolen Goods, knowing them to be stolen, are liable to Transportation for fourteen Years: And if any Offender ordered to be transported for any Term of seven or fourteen Years, or other Time, shall return into Great Britain or Ireland, before the End of his Term, he shall be punished as a Person attainted of Felony without Benefit of Clergy, and Execution shall be awarded accordingly. But his Majesty may, at any time, pardon the Transportation, and allow of the Return of the Offender, he paying his Owner a reasonable Satisfaction.”
The other Statutes of Importance in this Session, were for regulating the Trade in the Bone-lace, and the Wearing of Buttons; by the last of which, Taylors, &c. are prohibited to make Cloaths with Buttons made of Cloth, Serge, Drugget, Frize, Camblet, &c. under certain Penalties.
In the fourth Year of the Septennial Parliament, a great many Laws were enacted, both public and private. The first of a public Nature was for granting a Land-Tax of three Shillings in the Pound: The next for continuing the Duties on Malt, Mum, Cyder, &c. for the Service of the Year: And for applying of Monies to be raised by Way of Lottery: And these are succeeded with an Act for strengthening the Protestant Interest in these Kingdoms: An Act for punishing Mutiny and Desertion, and the better Payment of the Army: And an Act for quieting and establishing Corporations.
The Act for strengthening the Protestant Interest is placed in our Statute Books under the Head of Religion, and was made for repealing Part of a Law made in the 10th Year of the Reign of Queen Anne, and of another Law made 12° Anno of the same Reign: One was intitled, An Act for preserving the Protestant Religion, by better securing the Church of England; and the other for preventing the Growth of Schism: The former enacted, That if any Person, who had any Office, Civil or Military, or who received any Pay or Salary, by Patent or Grant from the Crown, or who should receive any Fee or Wages of the Queen, her Heirs or Successors, or should have any Place of Command or Trust in England, &c. or be admitted into any Employment in the Houshold; or if any Magistrate of a Corporation, who by the 13 and 25 Car. II. or either of them, were obliged to receive the Sacrament, should, after their Admission into their Offices, or after having such a Patent or Grant, or Place of Trust, and during their Continuance in such Office, be present at any Conventicle for the Exercise of Religion, at which there should be ten Persons or more assembled, or should be knowingly present at any Meeting where the Royal Family should not be prayed for in express Words, though the Liturgy of the Church of England were used, they were to incur a Penalty of 40 l. and be disabled to hold any Office or Employment whatsoever. This was what was called the Act of Conformity.
The Law against Schism ordained, that if any Person should keep any public or private School or Seminary, or teach any Youth as Tutor or Schoolmaster, before he should have subscribed the Declaration of 14 Car. II. (viz. That he would conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England) and should have obtained a Licence from the Archbishop or Bishop of the Diocese, he should be committed to the common Gaol for three Months. Persons keeping Schools were also to receive the Sacrament of the Church of England, to take the Oaths, and subscribe the Declaration against Transubstantiation; and they were not to resort to any Conventicles or Meetings.
These were the Laws relating to the Church of England, made by the late Queen Anne, and repealed by the 5 Geo. It seems the Protestant Interest was to be strengthened by annihilating a Law made for preserving the Protestant Religion, and better securing the Church; and of a Law against Schism, which did not extend, as to Seminaries of Learning, to the Tuition and Teaching of Youth in Reading, Writing, or Mathematical Learning in the English Tongue.
I have mentioned thus much of the Statutes made in the late Reign, to shew to the Reader what it is that has been repealed, that he may the better judge of the Conduct of the Septennial Parliament in this Particular, and see what was our Law before it was altered. But this must be said in Behalf of our Parliament, in the second Section of the Act of Repeal, they enacted, That if any Mayor, Bailiff, or other Magistrate of a Corporation, shall resort to, or be present at, any public Meeting for religious Worship, other than the Church of England as by Law established, in the Gown or other peculiar Habit, or attended with the Mace, or other Ensigns of his Office, every such Mayor, &c. being thereof convicted, shall be disabled to hold such Office or Employment, and be adjudged incapable to bear any public Office.
The Act for quieting Corporations, was made on a Neglect of taking the Oath and subscribing the Declaration of the Solemn League and Covenant (difused for many Years, though required by the Act 13 Car. II.) to confirm Members of Corporations in their Offices, notwithstanding the Omission to take the said Oath, or to subscribe the said Declaration; and to indemnify them from all Incapacities, Disabilities, and Forfeitures, arising from such Omission. It also repeals so much of the Statute as required the taking the said Oath, and subscribing the Declaration. The Objection to this Omission, was first started by a cunning Attorney in the West, to make his Terms with the Officers of a certain Corporation, with whom he was at Variance: And he carried his Point, having proved, that by the Omission of a Part of their Qualification, the Acts of all the Corporations in England were null and void.
By this Law in favour of Corporations, it is also ordained, That all Members of Corporations, and every Person in Possession of any Office at the Time of making this Statute, required by the said Act of 13 Car. II. to take the Sacrament according to the Church of England, within one Year next before their Election, shall be confirmed in their several Offices, notwithstanding their Omission to take the said Sacrament, and be indemnified from all Incapacities, Disabilities, &c. And none of their Acts shall be questioned or avoided by Reason of such Omission.
The further Acts of this Session of the Septennial Parliament, are, An Act for continuing Duties upon Coals, &c. for establishing certain Funds to raise Money, as well to proceed in the Building of new Churches, as also to compleat the Supply granted to his Majesty: An Act against clandestine running of uncustomed Goods, and for preventing of Frauds relating to the Customs: An Act to continue the Commissioners appointed to examine, state, and determine the Debts due to the Army, and to examine and state the Demands of several foreign Princes and States for Subsidies during the late War: A Statute for the better securing the lawful Trade of his Majesty’s Subjects to and from the East Indies: An Act for recovering the Credit of the British Fishery: Acts for preventing Mischiefs which may happen by keeping too great Quantities of Gun-powder in or near the Cities of London and Westminster; for Prevention of Inconveniencies arising from seducing Artificers into foreign Parts; for the better preventing Frauds committed by Bankrupts; for making more effectual the Laws for Discovery and Punishment of Deer-Stealers; and the several Statutes for Repairing and Amending the Highways of this Kingdom.
The Law for recovering the Credit of our Fishery, was a well designed Law; but why did not our Parliament examine into this sooner? When a Trade is wholly lost, it is then too late to make Laws for its Preservation; which I fear is the Case of the British Fishery. The Statute for preventing the seducing of Artificers into foreign Parts, might also be a good Law; but unless our Artificers are encouraged at home, no one can blame them for going abroad: If they are here starving, through the Badness of the Times (as I am very apprehensive too many are) they are then under a Necessity of going into those Parts of the World, howsoever remote, where they can acquire a Subsistance in Life: And as to the Law against Bankrupts, it has been found to be necessary, when we have a large Army of these Sorts of People, and it has been justly observed, that it is almost unfashionable not to be a Bankrupt.
Our Parliament, in this Session, shewed themselves industriously inclined to the Preservation of the Game, particularly of Deer; expecting, I presume, soon to enlarge their Landed Territories, out of the Plunder of their Fellow-Subjects, (for we are now advancing to the fatal Annal) they enacted, “That if, after the 1st of May 1719, any Person shall enter any Park, Paddock, or other inclosed Ground, where Deer are usually kept, and wilfully wound or kill any Red or Fallow Deer, without the Consent of the Owner, or Person intrusted with the Custody of such Park, &c. or shall be assisting therein; on his being indicted for such Offence, before any Judge of Gaol Delivery for the County wherein such Park shall be, and Conviction thereof by Verdict or Confession, he shall be sent to some of his Majesty’s Plantations in America for seven Years; and the Court before whom he shall be convicted, or any subsequent Court, held at the same Place, with like Authority, shall have Power to convey, transfer, and make over such Offender, by Order of Court, to the Use of any Person who shall contract for the Performance of such Transportation.
“If the Keeper, or other Officer, of any Forest, &c. where Deer are usually kept, shall be convicted on the Statute 3 and 4 William and Mary, for killing or taking away any Red or Fallow Deer, or for being aiding therein, without Consent of the Owner, or Person chiefly intrusted with the Custody of such Forest, &c. he shall forfeit 50 l. for each Deer so killed, to be levied by Distress: And for want of Distress, be imprisoned for three Years. without Bail or Mainprize, and be set on the Pillory two Hours, on some Market-day, in the Town next the Place where the Offence was committed.”
By these Clauses, in this Law, we may see how careful our Representatives have been as to the preserving of Beasts Feræ Naturæ, originally in common to Mankind, and which all had a Property in. I do not question the Authority of our Senate in making of Laws; but those Things wherein the People had an original Right, they will think hard to be taken from them, without parting with that Right in a Manner agreeable to the general Disposition of Property.
So careful, I say, have our Members of Parliament shewn themselves in a Case of Diversion only, and a disputed Property; they have made Transportation, Fines, and Imprisonment, the Punishment of Offences in the Injury of Beasts (nay, some have gone farther, by proposing it to be Felony to kill any Sort of Game) when they have intirely neglected the highest Concern of the Nation; a Concern relating to the Lives, the Fortunes, and established Property of the Human Species, and their Fellow-Subjects, who chose them for their Representatives,
This will sound but illy to Posterity; and to shew that this blessed Parliament delighted in Trifles attended with Mischiefs, as well as in Matters of Moment that were fatal, I shall here insert a Part of the Statute made for the more effectual amending of the Highways. It is enacted, “That no Waggon travelling for Hire, shall have the Wheels bound with Streaks or Tire of a less Breadth than two Inches and a Half, when worn, on Pain of forfeiting all the Horses above three in Number, with all the Geers, &c. If any Person shall hinder, or attempt to hinder, with Force, or otherwise, the seizing, distraining, or carrying away of any Seizure or Distress, for the Forfeiture aforesaid, or shall rescue the same, or use any Violence to the Persons concerned in making such Seizure, every such Person, on Oath thereof made by one or more Witnesses before a Justice of Peace, shall be sent to the common Gaol, there to remain for three Months, without Bail, and forfeit the Sum of ten Pounds, to be levied on his Goods and Chattels, by Warrant from the Justice of Peace before whom convicted.
By Virtue of this Law, all our Waggoners in England, who travelled for Hire, were immediately obliged to furnish themselves with new Waggons, to avoid the Penalties, and carry on their Business: They were forced to part with their old Waggons, experienced to be good, and perfectly useful, for any thing they could get; and to take up with new Waggons that were considerably worse for their Service at the dearest Prices; and, at the same time, limited to the same Number of Horses as before, though adding to the Breadth of the Wheels makes a very great Difference on this Account; and all this was done to satisfy the Revenge of a Member, who had the woeful Misfortune of pitching his Head into a Mire, in a Road which was never known to be good.
It is by this Statute our Waggoners, and inland Traders, who have Dependance upon them for the Carriage of their Goods, have been liable to great Hardships and Expences, without any Redress, though they lately petitioned our wise Law-makers to take their Case into Consideration.
Before I quit this Session of Parliament, I am to take some Notice of the Peerage Bill, brought into the House of Lords, for limiting the Number of Peers to sit in that House. This Subject employed all Conversations for a considerable Time, and made so great a Noise in Town, that many were the Pamphlets that were written for and against it: The Court was for this Bill, which was a politic Game the Public could not easily understand, for it was parting with a Branch of the Prerogative; the Lords, you may be sure, joined with the Court, as it might be a Means of preserving the Dignity of the Peerage, and the Commons vigorously opposed both, for they expected themselves all to be Lords, so that the Bill, after many Debates, dropped in its Progress.
A great many discerning Persons were Sticklers for this Bill, who were of neither House of Parliament, because they apprehended ill Consequences from the Increase of the Number of our Peers (above sixty Promotions to the Peerage having been already made in this Reign): By that noble Body’s growing too great, the Commons of England, who ought to be the Protectors of our Liberties, may be in Danger of losing their Rights and Privileges, and other Inconveniencies may ensue, which, at the Time of this Bill, was foreseen; though it is likely the Court had another Reason for their advancing a Law of this Nature, not safe to be mentioned, when we have a Successor to the Crown now amongst us.
The History of the particular Debates on this Bill, is too long to be inserted in this Treatise; I shall therefore omit it, and proceed to that Annal of our Septennial Parliament, which will sound dreadful to Posterity, the fatal Year 1720.
The fifth Session of the Septennial Parliament, began with a Land Tax of three Shillings in the Pound; an Act for continuing the Duties on Malt, Mum, Cyder, &c. A Statute for laying a Duty on wrought Plate; An Act for the Prevention of Frauds in the Revenues, Excise, Post-Office, &c. A Law for punishing Mutiny and Desertion; and an Act to appoint Commissioners to examine, state, and determine the Debts due to the Army.
But the greatest Act of this Session, was the Act for enabling the South Sea Company to increase their Capital Stock and Fund, by redeeming public Debts; and for raising Money, to be applied for lessening several of the public Debts and Incumbrances. It recites, That the Commons being desirous to lessen the public Debts, as fast as might be, and that the public Duties might be settled, so that the South Sea Company’s Annuity, or yearly Fund, for their then present and to be increased Capital, might be continued to Midsummer 1727, and afterwards reduced to four Pounds per Cent. and thenceforth be redeemable by Parliament, did grant that the Rates of Excise, and Duties on Pepper, &c. granted in the Reign of Queen Anne, and the Duties on Coals granted 5 Geo. should be continued and made perpetual, to secure to the South Sea Company the Payments intended to be made by this Act.
The South Sea Company, in Consideration of the Liberty given them of increasing their Capital Stock and Fund, (I think to forty millions, an immense Sum) by taking in of all the redeemable Debts, &c. were to pay into the Exchequer, towards discharging the Principal and Interest of such national Debts and Incumbrances as were incurred before the 25th of December 1716, the Sum of four millions one hundred and fifty thousand Pounds and upwards; and also four Years and a Half’s Purchase on the Terms of Annuities that should be taken in by Subscription; for which they were to be paid an Annuity (by weekly or other Payments) out of the Moneys arising by the public Duties above mentioned, ordered into the Exchequer for their Use.
To enable the Company immediately to raise the four millions and one hundred and fifty thousand Pounds, and the four Years and a Half’s Purchase on Annuities, they were impowered to make Calls of Money upon their Members, to open Books of Subscriptions, or grant Annuities redeemable by the Company, or to raise Money by any other Methods they should think fit. And the Company was likewise enabled to borrow Money upon any Contracts, Bills, or Bonds, under their common Seal, or on the Credit of their Capital Stock, at such Rates of Interest, for any Time not less than six Months, as they should think proper, and should be to the Satisfaction of the Lenders.
They were impowered to take in by Subscription all or any of the Annuities, for long and short Terms of Years (formerly granted for Money lent to the Crown) as the only Means of paying those Debts and public Incumbrances.
This is a Part of this Law, enacted by the Septennial Parliament: Let us now examine a little into the Use that was made of it. This Act was no sooner passed into a Law, but the South Sea Stock considerably advanced; in a few Weeks Time it rose from 100 to 200, and 300 per Cent. Price. This drew a vast Concourse of People of all Ranks and Conditions, to Exchange-Alley; Stars and Garters were here more frequently seen than at Court; and our Ladies of the greatest Quality abandoned their Palaces, and promiscuously mixed with Thieves, Stockjobbers, Lords, and Pickpockets: They attended the Exchange both Day and Night, to try their Fortunes with a Set of Sharpers, and for some Time were considerable Gainers by the Stocks.
The Directors observing this Success, immediately set on Foot their Money-Subscriptions; the first they took in low, I think at 300 per Cent. and finding it full sooner than they expected, they set others on Foot, till they came to 1000 per Cent. for 100 l. Stock; and such was the Madness of the People that they ventured in all the Subscriptions; but it was in a great Measure owing to the Management of the Directors, who gave it out to be a Favour, that they permitted any to be Subscribers but their Friends, and filled up what was wanting with fictitious Names.
These Subscriptions not only raised the Stock to almost ten Times its Value, but likewise drew in the Subscribers of Government Annuities; which the Directors also at first made a Favour to them, that happy was the Man (in the then Opinion) who could first subscribe to his Ruin. Our greatest Men of the Kingdom for Sense and Abilities, as well as Fortunes, were drawn into it; for we had Statesmen, Judges, and Bishops, who were taken with the Bait, as well as Tinkers, Coblers, and old Women. But when the Subscribers and Buyers of Stock began to consider what they had done, and the great Disproportion between the real Value and the Prices they had given, they then reflected on their Conduct, and were more fond of selling out (especially the Foreigners, here in great Numbers) than ever they were of buying in, which occasioned the first Fall of the South Sea Stock.
The Directors finding that they had gone too far in taking in Subscriptions, to keep up the Spirit of the People, and the Price of their Stocks, lent to the Proprietors 400 per Cent. on their Capital, by which Means they were enabled to purchase further: They made a Declaration of Dividends of 20, 30, and 50 per Cent. the latter for the Term of twelve Years, and cooked up a fictitious Contract with the Bank, which supported the Stock for some Time longer: But the Price being so very exorbitant, and more than all the Money in England, or in Europe, could satisfy, if all the Stock were to be sold, which now was the Case, for all would be Sellers, it fell from 1000 per Cent. in a very few Months, to 400 and 300, before the Parliament could meet to pass any Law, or do any Thing in its Favour.
For the King being abroad, at Hanover, he could not easily quit his German Dominions to come to our Assistance; and a Parliament could not well be called at this extraordinary Juncture without his Royal Presence: His Majesty’s Absence, on this Occasion, was a great Misfortune to his Subjects; it was at least three or four Months before the King came over; and by what happened in the mean time, we were sufficiently sensible that the Complaisance shewn to our King by his condescending Parliament, in repealing the Clause in the Act of Succession, which had obliged his Majesty’s Residence in England, was a Complaisance as disagreeable to his People, as it could be acceptable to his Majesty.
But when our Parliament met, what did they do for the public Benefit, and to retrieve Misconducts? Why truly, they made several Votes and Resolutions, and ordered a Committee to be appointed, to enquire into Proceedings, which were succeeded with some Laws for restoring Public Credit: But all was too late; the Mischief was already done, and could not be undone; instead of raising the Stock, they brought it to 100. And the South Sea Dividends of 30 and 50 per Cent. which had been formerly declared, were now sunk in their Books to 10, 8, and 7.
The Subscribers for Stock at 1000 and 500, were not now able to go on with their Subscriptions; they were released by the Parliament; the South Sea Company had remitted them a great Part of their Debt to the Government, on Condition of allowing additional Stock to Proprietors: But the Subscribers of Government Annuities were obliged to the Terms of 300, when the Stock would not yield 100, and prevented by a Law from asserting their Right at Law in contesting their Subscriptions, which being agreed to on the Side of the Directors only, and not of the Proprietors, as the Statute directed, were in all legal Construction no Subscriptions at all, but a notorious Fraud and Imposition of the Directors, and those employed by them.
Instead of paying the public Debts, the South Sea Managers brought every body in Debt, and Ruin upon All Men but themselves: Nay, they did not stick to plunder their dearest Friends and Relations, to raise their own Fortunes; and those who were not let into the Secret, were one Day in a Coach, and the next in a Prison, but the latter they were sure of: Strange were the Reverses of Fortune in a very few Weeks; we saw the lowest and most awkward Mechanics surrounded with Equipages, and in the Palaces of Noblemen; and our ancient Gentry destitute of Habitations, and reduced to the extremest Poverty.
Suicides and Self-Violences were now become so common, that we seldom had a Week without many Occurrences of News of this Kind, besides great Numbers who submitted to their Fate, by pining away with Grief, Penury and Want. This has been the Case of many of the Annuitants, as to whom the public Faith has been more broken by the Septennial Parliament, than in any other extraordinary Transaction they have been guilty of: The Annuitants could not expect that in an Affair of lending their Money to the Government, and for which our former Parliaments had engaged, that they should be tied down by a Law to their Ruin and Destruction.
But as what I have mentioned is not sufficient to display the whole Scene of Vìllainy of the South Sea Directors, and others concerned with them, and the several Steps and Proceedings of our Parliament concerning the same, I shall here insert the Resolutions and Orders of the House of Lords and Commons, made and passed, relating to the South Sea Managers, and the dreadful Punishment that ensued thereupon.
Resolutions of the Lords and Commons, relating to the South Sea Directors.
The Lords Resolutions.
JAnuary 13, 1720. After Accompts were ordered to be given, and a Committee to be appointed by the Commons, the Lords first Resolved, That the Directors in making Loans on their Stock and Subscriptions, were guilty of a Breach of Trust, and ought to make good the Losses which the Company has sustained thereby out of their private Estates.
Jan. 16,—Ordered a Bill to incapacitate the Sub and Deputy-Governor, and Directors of the South Sea Company, from being Directors in any of the three Corporations of the Bank, India, and South Sea.
Jan. 27,—Resolved, That the taking in Stock without a valuable Consideration, for any Person in the Administration, during the Time that the Bill of the South Sea Company was depending in Parliament, was a dangerous and notorious Corruption.
February 1.—Resolved, That the Directors of the South Sea Company having bought Stock for the Company, under Pretence of supporting Public Credit, and at the same time gave Orders to sell their own Stock, was a notorious Fraud, and a Breach of Trust, and are the Causes of the Turn of Affairs with respect to public Credit.
The Commons Resolutions.
DEcember 29, 1720.—Ordered the Directors of the South Sea Company do lay before the House an Account of the Reasons that induced them to take the 3d and 4th Subscriptions at 1000, and to declare the Dividends of 30 and 50 per Cent.
Jan. 4.—Resolved, That a Bill be brought in to prevent the Directors of the South Sea Company going out of the Kingdom, or disposing of, or alienating, any Part of their Estates; and to make it Felony to depart the Realm, &c.
Jan. 20.—Resolved, That all Subscriptions of public Debts shall remain in the present State, unless altered for the Ease and Relief of the Proprietors, or set aside by due Course of Law.
Feb. 13.—Resolved not to reject the Petition of the South Sea Company, praying to be relieved with respect to the Seven Millions, all the Money the South-Sea Company was to pay the Government.
Feb. 17.—Agreed to postpone the Payment of the Seven Millions a Year longer.
Feb. 18.—Resolved, That the Loss the South Sea Company may sustain by the Monies lent on Stock and Subscriptions (above Two Millions) shall be made good out of the Estates of the late Sub and Deputy-Governors, and Directors of the said Company: And that the taking in of Stock for any Member of either House, while the South Sea Bill was depending, was a dangerous Corruption.
Feb. 21.—Resolved, That all those Persons who had Stock taken in for them, whilst the South Sea Bill was depending, and paid no Money for it (about Seven hundred thousand Pounds worth) ought to refund the Difference to the Company. And ordered in a Bill.
Feb. 25.—Resolved, That the Deficiencies of the Payments on the 3d and 4th Subscription (amounting to above a Million) ought to be made good out of the Estates of the Directors; and referred to the Secret Committee to proceed in the Affair relating to the Stock taken in whilst the South Sea Bill was depending.
From all these glorious Resolutions, which discover the most secret and vilest Frauds of Persons in Power, as well as in Directors of the South Sea Company, we had Reason to expect a great deal would be done: That the Directors were to give in Reasons for what they had done; that an adequate Punishment would be inflicted on those who had been guilty of such notorious Corruptions and Breaches of Trust; and who had accepted of Stock while the South Sea Bill was depending, without paying any Money for the same; but instead of it, this mighty Noise vanished in Smoak.
’Tis true, Acts of Parliament were made to restrain the Directors of the South Sea Company from going out of the Kingdom; to raise Money out of their Estates; and to disable them from holding any public Places and Preferments. And the Secret Committee, which was composed of some very honest Gentlemen, as the Lord Molesworth, Archibald Hutcheson, Esq; Thomas Broderick, Esq; Sir Jos. Jekyll, Edward Wortley Montague, Esq; Edward Jeffreys, Esq; Dixey Windsor, Esq; and several others, by their diligent Enquiries, made a Discovery of vast Quantities of Stock transferred to Persons without any apparent Consideration; especially of Fifty Thousand Pounds to a noble E—l, and considerable Sums to others in the House of Commons, not to mention particularly the Ladies at Court: Yet what did this end in, any further than the acquitting of one Gentleman, and the imprisoning of another? And if the noble L—was in any manner of Danger from so vigorous a Prosecution, he was afterwards sheltered by an Act of Indemnity.
This was all that was done by the Septennial Parliament, after all this Clamour; but therein, perhaps, they have shewn their Prudence, more than in any other Proceedings; they best knew how far a Charge of this Kind might affect their whole Body. And as to the Directors Estates, they gave in Inventories so very inferior to their real Fortunes, that the whole amounted to little more than two Millions; when many of the Directors were very well known to be singly worth near a Million of Money: And yet our Parliament was satisfied with them, and through a great deal of Christian Compassion to these Agents of Iniquity, their Fellow Labourers, allowed them above three hundred and fifty thousand Pounds (some of them their whole Money) out of the Estimates they had given in.
The Schedules of Estates and Allowances are as follow:
By these two Schedules (the first valuing South Sea Stock at 150 per Cent.) it appears how sparing our Directors were in giving in the real Estimates of their Estates; and how truly indulgent to them the Septennial Parliament have behaved themselves, at a Time it was expected, and that very justly, that the South Sea Directors would have been rewarded with Halters, and not have had Allowances so considerable, as Fifty Thousand Pounds to any one Man, for ruining their Country.
What I have said, may serve as a short History of the Parliament’s Proceedings relating to the South Sea Scheme: I shall now take Notice of the other Statutes made and passed in this Session of Parliament, particularly concerning the Bubbles.
Besides the Statutes I have mentioned, the following Laws were enacted: An Act for making forth new Exchequer Bills, not exceeding One Million, at a certain Interest, and for lending the same to the South Sea Com-Company, upon Security of repaying it into the Exchequer, for Uses to which the Fund for lessening the public Debts, called the Sinking Fund, is applicable. An Act for securing Powers granted by Charters for Assurance of Ships and Merchandize. An Act for Relief of Insolvent Debtors. And another for the Building and Repairing of Goals. And Acts for making the Rivers Idle, Douglas, &c. navigable.
As to the first of these Laws, I do not admire that the South Sea Funds were called by the Names of the Sinking Funds; I take it they have sufficiently sunk our Pockets: The Statute in favour of the Corporations of Assurances, were granted to raise 600,000 l. for the Use of his Majesty, to discharge the Debts of his Civil Government. The Act for Relief of Insolvent Debtors, was the first of the Kind that had been made in his Reign (in other Reigns, Acts of Grace were more frequent) and subjected the Debtors to unusual Hardships: And the Statute for building of Gaols, was an Act that was convenient, when our Gaols would not contain the Number of Debtors liable to Commitment to our Prisons.
The Statutes for making the Rivers Idle and Douglas navigable, were immediately converted into Bubbles; for this being the Year of Bubbles, wherein above one Hundred of all Sorts were set up, encouraged by the Grand National Bubble, the South Sea, if a Man had but a House to build, an Elbow Chair, or a Table to make, he was for raising Money upon his Project, before any thing was done, and where nothing was intended to be done; and even Necessary Houses were a Bubble amongst the rest, though but few of the Proprietors could live upon the Product, when their Money, which should have bought them Provisions, was distributed to the Projectors.
Mines of all Sorts were now the greatest Bubbles; all Persons expected Silver and Gold, Brass and Copper, though none could find it in any Situation, but in the Continuances of the Cheats that set them on foot: Yet all of them succeeded a while, till by the Clause in the Act for securing to the Corporations for Assurance of Merchandize certain Privileges, they were declared to be Cheats and public Nusances; which at once crushed them, and gave the South Sea Company the greatest Blow it had then received, though it was manifestly designed for its Service.
The Traders in Exchange Alley having a greater Advantage in the small Bubbles than in the National One, had employed their Money in those, and neglected to deal in the South Sea Stock: And this occasioned the Clause I have referred to; for the South Sea Managers were resolved to have the whole Game of Bubbles (so exceeding profitable) to themselves only; but the Consequence did not answer their Expectation: With the Bubbles sunk the Stocks, which the politic Managers could never afterwards rise: People began now to mistrust every thing, when the Use of Patents was denied; those who acted in Bubbles, erected on Patents, thought they had the same Right to proceed, as those that had the Sanction of an Act of Parliament: And it being denied, public Credit immediately dwindled, and fell away to nothing; whereupon the general Calamity soon ensued.
Thus much for the Bubbles, as to their Rise and Overthrow; which extended to Scotland and Ireland, as well as to England: And the Kingdom of Ireland is very much obliged to the Septennial Parliament for a Law of a different Kind from what I have taken Notice of. In this Session, a Statute was made for the better securing the Dependency of Ireland upon the Crown of Great Britain; wherein it is enacted, That the House of Lords of Ireland have not, nor of Right ought to have any Jurisdiction to judge of, assirm, or reverse any Judgment, Sentence, or Decree, given, or made in any Court within the said Kingdom; and that all Proceedings before the said House of Lords, on any such Judgment, Sentence, or Decree, shall be null and void to all Intents and Purposes.
I presume the Design of this Law was to aggrandize one House of Lords at the Expence of another; and though I am no Advocate on either Side, I doubt not but the Lords of the Kingdom of Ireland, at the Time of passing this Statute, thought it an Infringement on their Rights and Privileges.
In the sixth Session of the Septennial Parliament the Statute was made for restraining the Directors of the South Sea Company from leaving the Kingdom, for the Space of one Year, that they might be upon the Spot to receive the Doom that was reserved for them, the terrible one I have mentioned, of parting with a quarter Part of their Estates (a great deal of it returned them) as an Atonement for the Crimes they had been guilty of, in cheating a whole Nation, and doing their utmost towards its Destruction: They were now obliged to deliver, on Oath before one of the Barons of the Exchequer, the Inventories of their Real and Personal Estates, such as I have already inserted to their Honour.
The Clause for Allowances to the Directors was now also passed, being included in the Statute for vesting their Estates in certain Trustees, viz. Sir John Eyles, Sir Tho, Crosse, John Rudge, Matthew Lant, Roger Hudson, Edmond Halsey, John Lade, Gabriel Roberts, and Richard Hopkins, Esquires, to the Intent to be sold for certain Uses. We had also an Act passed this Session, for raising a Sum not exceeding five hundred thousand Pounds, by charging Annuities upon the Civil List Revenues, till redeemed by the Crown; which shews, that the Civil List was still in Debt, notwithstanding the extraordinary Provision of the last Session of Parliament.
The further Acts were; for a Land Tax of 3s. in the Pound; for continuing the Duties on Malt, Mum, &c. for punishing Mutiny and Desertion; to state the Debts of the Army; to prohibit the Wear of Callicoes in this Kingdom, out of Respect to the Ladies, it being their favourite Dress; to regulate Journeymen Taylors, who having extraordinary Employment in making the fine Cloaths of the South Sea Directors, were grown very mutinous; an Act to enable the South Sea Company to ingraft Part of their Capital Stock and Fund into the Stock and Fund of the Bank of England; and another Part thereof into the Stock and Fund of the East India Company; a Statute for the Restoration of public Credit; an Act for the King’s most Gracious, General and Free Pardon; and a Statute for Repealing an Act made in the late Reign, obliging Ships to perform Quarentine; and for the better preventing the Plague being brought from foreign Parts into the Kingdom of Great Britain.
The Act for Ingraftment of South Sea Stock into the Stock and Funds of the Bank of England and India Company, has been an Encouragement to the Directors, and others, to endeavour to force an Ingraftment on those Companies without any Act of Parliament, and without the Consent of the Proprietors of Stock. Mr. Hopkins and some others, on a late Motion in the South Sea House, made extraordinary Speeches, to shew how reasonable it was for an Englishman to part with his Estate without his Consent; and menaced the Proprietors to comply with his Proposition, for that otherways some Great Persons, in whose Power it was to do them great Injury, would highly resent it. Though all would not do, for a General Court carried the Question against them, though the Endeavours to obstruct it were very extraordinary and unprecedented.
A certain Courtier very much laboured for this Ingraftment to be made, to lessen the Power of the South Sea Company: He was for bringing the Capital Stock of the three great Companies, as near an Equality as might be, that he might the more easily bring them into all his Schemes, or on their Refusal, ruin them at his Pleasure. This was foreseen; which occasioned the Stand that was made, and disappointed, for a Time, the great Expectations of the Person that promoted it.
The Statute relating to the Restoring of Credit, I have already observed, had a contrary Effect to the Design and Intention of it, for the Reasons I have mentioned: It indeed gave an Addition of Stock to Proprietors, and remitted great Sums due from the South Sea Company to the Government; but at the same time sunk the Price of the Stocks: And what was a little uncommon, to make an Opportunity for enacting this Law, the Septennial Parliament was prorogued for a Week only, to create a new Session, that they may proceed to tie down the subscribing Annuitants after they had voted, That the Subscriptions should remain as they did, unless set aside by due Course of Law; which they could not do without a new Session: So that the Law, by this Act of Parliament, was interrupted in its Course, and the Annuitants forced to accept of Stock which did not amount to above a third Part in Value of their respective Debts and Annuities.
But there is one good Clause in this Statute, relating to Contracts, at this Time very numerous, and impossible, by the Fall of Stock to be complied with: It enacted, “That no Special Bail shall be required in any Action brought upon any Contract made since the 1st of December 1719, and before the 1st of December, 1720, for the Sale or Purchase of any Subscription or Stock of the South Sea Company, or any other Company; and that no Execution shall be awarded upon any Judgment obtained in any Action brought upon such Contract, until the End of the next Session of Parliament.”
This Interruption of the Law, was very favourable to a great many Persons; and, I think, this Clause has been since continued.
In respect to the Act for a General Pardon, it is easily known for whom it was designed: I have hinted at the Use of this Law, in my Notice of the Punishment of the late South Sea Directors, and others their Confederates. It enacts, “That all his Majesty’s Subjects of Great Britain, their Heirs, &c. shall be Acquitted, Pardoned, and Discharged, from all Treasons, Misprisions of Treasons, Felonies, &c. And all Riots, Routs, Offences, Trespasses, Wrongs, Deceits, Misdemeanors, Forfeitures and Penalties, which are not excepted, done before the 24th of June, 1721”.
Now, I don’t know any Persons that had at this Time been guilty of Treason or Felony, to require a Statute of this Kind, unless it were the Directors of the South Sea Company, who were under Prosecution, and Excepted out of the Act; which plainly shews, that this Act was made for no Use at all, or to skreen some Persons not called to Account, from Crimes of another Nature, though equal in Consequence.
As for the Quarentine Act, it being a Statute that has made a very great Noise, more perhaps than any other Law that has been enacted within the Memory of Man, I shall here insert an Abstract of such Parts of the same as are mostly necessary to be communicated to the Public; and I hope the Length of it will not be a Burden to the Reader.
This Statute enacts, “That during the Infection, and in all future Times, when any Country or Place shall be infected with the Plague, all Ships, Persons, Goods and Merchandises, coming in such Ships into any Port in Great Britain or Ireland, from any Place so infected, or from any Place the Inhabitants whereof are known to trade with any Country actually infected, or from any Place from whence his Majesty, with the Advice of the Privy Council, shall judge it probable that the Infection may be brought, shall be obliged to make their Quarentine in such Place, for such Time, and in such Manner, as by Proclamation shall be directed and notified: And till such Ship, Persons, or Goods, shall be discharged from Quarentine, no Person or Goods shall be brought on Shore, or be put on board any other Ship, in any Place within his Majesty’s Dominions, unless by proper Licence: And all such Ships, Persons and Goods, and all Vessels receiving any Goods or Persons out of them, are to be subject to such Orders concerning Quarentine, and the Prevention of Infection, as shall be ordered by Proclamation.
“When any Country shall be infected, and an Order shall be made and notified as aforesaid, concerning Quarentine, as often as any Ship shall attempt to enter into any Port, the principal Officer in such Port, or others authorized to see Quarentine performed, are to go to such Ship, and at convenient Distance demand of the Person having Charge of the same, the Name of the Commander; at what Place the Cargo was taken on board? what Places the Ship landed at? whether such Places were infected? how long the Ship had been in her Passage? how many Persons were on board when the Ship set sail? whether any Persons during the Voyage had been, or shall be then infected? how many died in the Voyage, and of what Distemper? what Ships he or his Company went on board, or had any of their Company come on board his Ship? and to what Place such Ships belonged? and also the true Contents of his Lading? And in case, on the Examination, it appears that any Person on board is infected, then the Officers of any Ships of War, or Forts, or Garisons, and all other Officers, &c. on Notice given to them, are to resist the Entrance of such Ship into any Port, or to oblige such Ship to depart, and to use all necessary Means, by firing of Guns, or any kind of Force and Violence whatsoever: And if such Ship shall come from Places visited with the Plague, or have any Persons or Goods infected on board, and the Master, or other Commander shall not discover it, he shall be guilty of Felony, and suffer accordingly: And if he shall not make a true Discovery in any of the other Particulars, he shall forfeit 200 l.
“If any Master shall quit the Ship, or suffer any other so to do, before Quarentine is performed; or shall not, after due Notice, cause the Ship and Lading to be conveyed into the Place appointed for Quarentine, then every such Ship shall be forfeited, and the Master shall also forfeit the Sum of 200 l. And if any Persons shall quit the ship by going on shore, or on board any other Ship, they may, by Force and Violence, be compelled to return on board; and shall be imprisoned six Months, and likewise be subject to 200 l. Forfeiture.
“If at any time hereafter, any Place in Great Britain or Ireland, &c. shall be infected, and the same shall be made appear to his Majesty in Council, during the Continuance of such Calamity, his Majesty may make such Orders concerning Quarentine, as shall be necessary for the Safety of his Subjects, and notify the same by Proclamation: And all Persons Civil and Military are to render due Obedience to all Orders and Regulations so made and notified.
“His Majesty may order Ships to be provided, or cause Lazarets for entertaining Persons infected, and obliged to perform Quarentine, and Sheds and Tents to be erected, to continue for such Time as his Majesty shall think proper, in convenient Places, to be allowed by Justices of the Peace, in any waste Grounds, &c. And the proper Officers may compel all Persons infected, or obliged to perform Quarentine, and all Goods to be conveyed to some of those Ships, Lazarets, or Tents, according to the Orders made and notified.
“If any Persons infected, or obliged to perform Quarentine, shall refuse to repair, after due Notice, to the Places appointed; or having been placed there, shall attempt to escape, the Watchmen may, by any kind of Violence, compel them to repair, or to return, to such Ship, Lazaret, &c. and such refusing or escaping shall be Felony. And if any Persons, not infected, shall presume to enter any Ship, or Lazaret, whilst any Person infected, or under Quarentine, shall be therein, and shall return, unless by Licence, then the Watchman may, by any kind of Violence, compel them to repair into such Ship or Lazaret, there to continue and perform Quarentine; and such Persons returning shall be guilty of Felony.
“If any Place shall be infected, his Majesty may cause Lines or Trenches to be cast up about such Place, at a convenient Distance, to cut off the Communication between the Place infected, and the rest of the Country; and prohibit all Persons and Goods to be carried over such Lines, unless by Licence: And if any Person within the Lines shall attempt to come out of the same, the Watchmen, &c. may, by any kind of Violence, compel them to return: And Persons coming out of the Lines without Licence, shall be guilty of Felony.
“Any two Justices of the Peace, next to the Place where any Ship shall be performing Quarentine, or wherein any infected Place shall be situate, or Lines made, may order the Inhabitants about the same to keep sufficient Watches by Day and Night, who are not to permit any Persons or Goods to depart out or be removed from such Lines: And if any Inhabitant refuse to keep such Watch, on Conviction thereof he shall forfeit not exceeding 100 l. nor less than 10 l. at the Discretion of the Justices, and shall be committed to Prison for two Months.
“If any Officer of the Customs, or any other Officer, shall be guilty of any wilful Breach of Trust, he shall forfeit his Office, and be incapacitated, and also forfeit 200 l. And if any Officer appointed to see Quarentine performed, or any Watchman, shall knowingly suffer any Person, Ship, or Goods to depart, or to be conveyed out of a Town or Place infected, he shall be guilty of Felony.
“If it shall appear, that any Ship shall come from any Place infected, or be loaden with any Cargo taken on board at any Place infected, or from any Ship infected; or there shall be any Persons or Goods on board actually infected, his Majesty, by Order of Council, may order such Ship, with the Goods, &c. to be burnt, for preventing the Spreading of the Infection.
“All Goods, after Quarentine performed, are to be opened and aired, in such Place, and for such Time, and in such Manner, as shall be directed by his Majesty’s Order: And on Proof thereof, by two credible Witnesses, before the Customer, or others appointed, such Goods shall be forthwith discharged.
“When a Ship has performed Quarentine, on Proof made of it upon Oath by the Master, and two Persons belonging to the Ship, and of two credible Witnesses, that the Ship and Persons have duly performed Quarentine, and that they are free from Infection, then the Customer, &c. with two Justices of the Peace, are to give Certificates thereof, and thereupon such Ship and Persons shall be liable to no further Restraint.
These are the most material Clauses in the Quarentine Act; and some of them are so very extraordinary, that if our Protestant Parliament had not exactly copied after France, it is impossible they could ever have been thought of. In France, the poor miserable People visited with the Plague, were, by Force and Violence, removed from their Habitations (the only Place of Comfort in time of Sickness) to stinking Lazarets, where, by their Removal, and want of Necessaries, they soon saw a Period of their Lives: And thus, it seems, were the People of Great Britain to be served. In France, Lines and Trenches were cast up to confine the Distemper and the People within due Bounds, and to prevent the bringing them Provisions; and in England the same Methods were to be taken. In France, Pest-houses were built, for the Reception of Persons that should be infected; and here we were to have Barracks erected, though perhaps for another Purpose, to wit, to receive an armed Force.
The Barbarity and Inconsistency of these three Clauses, are so very apparent, that no Country, but an arbitrary Government, could possibly have furnished us with Precedents for them: And we may observe, with what Artifice the Statute is penned to make them go down. The Statute enacts, That his Majesty may order Ships, or cause Lazarets to be provided for entertaining Persons infected and obliged to perform Quarentine. Here the Word Ship is put before the Word Lazaret (which is observed throughout the whole Act) to make us understand the Act only related to Quarentine at Sea; which the generality of the People believed, without knowing or considering rightly, the Meaning of the Word Lazaret, and Posthouse at Land.
Then the Words Tents, and Sheds, are inserted just before the ordering the opening and airing of Goods, as if only designed for those Purposes. But when the Populace were alarmed with Reports of Designs to build Barracks in several Parts of the Kingdom, to receive Persons infected with the Plague, and the Plague had made its Approaches nearer to us, they then grew very uneasy and turbulent, and by their perpetual Clamour against the Contrivers of this Law, at length they got the extraordinary Clause repealed.
But it was above a Year after the Act was granted that this was done: And after Petitions had been presented to both Lords and Commons, which in one House were rejected, and, at first, by the other House received with very little Notice, though afterwards it was carried, on the repeated Outcries of the People, when a new Election was near approaching, and on duly considering the excellent Protest made by the Lord Cowper, and others, upon rejecting the Petition of the City of London.
Whether our Parliament passed this Law designedly, or not so, is not material to enquire into: That some of them must design it is certain; for certainly all of them could not be ignorant of what they were doing: And if the generality of our Representatives, by their great Penetration, could not discover the Design of this Law, I think I may say, that the Members of the Septennial Parliament have shewn themselves as remarkable for their Wisdom as their Honesty.
Now I come to the seventh and last Session of this glorious Parliament. When the Parliament was assembled, the first Thing they took into Consideration was the Charges of the Year, and the Debts of the Nation, of which they ordered Estimates to be given in, particularly of the Navy Debt, and Debts due to the Army. They also ordered Accounts to be laid before them of the Customs, and other Revenues, and seemed, for some time, to be pretty warm in calling Persons to Account for Mismanagements.
The Lords went into a Committee to consider of the Causes of contracting so large a Navy Debt, when every Year Provision had been made for the Navy. Great Debates arose on this Head, at several Meetings, but they came to no Resolution. The Lords were for having the Treaties with Spain laid before them; but this was opposed, and on the Question being put, it was carried against it. They also resolved, that an Address should be presented to his Majesty, for an Account how the Spanish Ships of War, taken in the Engagement in the Mediterranean (on our espousing the Cause of the Emperor against Spain) had been disposed of: And the Address being presented by the Lords, the Papers were delivered them, which not being satisfactory, a Motion was made for a Representation to the King, but it passed in the Negative.
By these Negative Proceedings in the Upper House, it was easy to be seen that every thing here went in favour of the Court, or the Court Favourites: And this manifested itself further, when the Lords rejected, by a very great Majority, the Petition of the City against the Quarentine Act. In the Lower House of Parliament, there appeared the same kind of Spirit; for the Commons had very great Debates before they would order in a Bill for the Repeal of this Statute: There were 75 Members against it, when the House was so thin as not to exceed the Number of 190 on this great Occasion. A List of this Number of 75, and also several other Lists of this Nature, would be an acceptable Curiosity to the Public; and there’s no doubt but they will be published.
Upon many Occasions, this Sessions, there were very thin Houses: And tho’ frequent Orders were made for a Call of the House, yet it was never once called. I don’t see to what Purpose our Members of Parliament are elected, if they are not constantly to appear, and sit in the House: And it is undoubtedly, rightly considered, a very great Breach of Trust in them, not to be present when any Thing of Importance is transacting in the Senate.
But to proceed to the Business of the Parliament: They resolved, That seven thousand Seamen should be allowed for the Service of the Year; and to continue the Number of Forces of the former Year, viz. fourteen thousand three hundred Men; they made a Provision for paying them, and granted to his Majesty one Million of Money to discharge the Debts of the Navy. They granted a Land Tax of 2 s. in the Pound, and no more; continued the Duties on Malt, &c. and made an Act to punish Mutiny and Desertion.
They passed a Law to enable his Majesty to prohibit Commerce with any Kingdom or Country, for the better Prevention of the Plague being brought to us; at which Time, and not before, the Objection was found out to the Quarentine Act, in the Manner I have mentioned: They likewise made a Statute against the clandestine Running of customed Goods, and also to prevent the Plague; which has a Clause in it very disadvantageous to our Merchants. A Bill was now passed for the further Encouragement of the Importation of naval Stores; for taking off Duties on Merchandize, and annulling Duties on Soap and Candles; and for the better suppressing of Pyrates at Sea, which were now very numerous, and grown very formidable.
Amongst other Statutes, a Law was made to impower the South Sea Company to sell so much of their Stock as would enable them to pay their Debts; though the Parliament refused to comply with the Petition of the South Sea Subscribers, praying to be relieved by a Distribution of the two Millions (in the Hands of the Company) which they thought they had reason to expect.
The Septennial Parliament also, in this Year, passed an Act for altering the Form of the Quakers Affirmation, which, I am informed, exempts them from the Use of the Word God in their solemn Declarations: And this was carried in both Houses, notwithstanding the Clergy of the City of London petitioned against it, as impious, and contrary to Religion; but our Members wanted the Assistance of these People in their Elections, and thought it no great Difficulty to give them a Licence to have nothing to do with that great and awful Power they had themselves so little Concern with.
Next to this, in Complaisance to the City, and to do what they could towards the Ruin of it, a Bill was brought into the House for building a Bridge over the Thames at Westminster: It seems the Archbishop’s Horses had received great Colds in passing the Lambeth Ferry, and to prevent this Mischief, thousands of People were to be ruined at the other End of the Town; but on hearing the Council for the City, and on the very great Clamour made against it, this Bill was dropped.
About this Time also a Bill was ordered, to prohibit the Practice of building Ships for Foreigners; it is observable that this was done after a Fleet of Ships of 60 and 70 Guns each had been built for France, under the Notion of Missisippi Merchantmen, though every one knew, by the Manner of building them, that they were otherways designed, and that they might one Day meet us to dispute the Empire of the Sea: But this, as it had all along been connived at, so now it was only considered in the House of Lords, without ever being examined into by the House of Commons, to the best of my Remembrance.
The Bill for better securing the Freedom of Elections, was now brought into the House of Commons, on a Motion made by Mr. Archibald Hutcheson; and it pretty easily passed this House, though it was generally apprehended, that it was owing to a good Understanding with the House of Lords, and to an Assurance that there it would be rejected, as it was on its second Reading: The Lords adjudged it incompatible with their Privileges, and therefore threw it out; but to the Honour of some of our Peers be it remembered, the rejecting this Law was opposed: for Protests were entered against it, by many noble Lords, though Debates arising upon them, the Protests that were made were ordered to be expunged.
As this Bill, which proposed the securing to us, what is most valuable to a free People, the Freedom of our Elections, has many excellent Clauses in it, tending to the Suppression of Bribery, from whence is our greatest Danger, I shall insert it at large, whereby the Reader may the better judge of its Use, if it had passed.
The Copy of a Bill for better securing the Freedom of Elections of Members to serve for the Commons in Parliament.
FOR better securing the Freedom of Elections of Members to serve for the Commons in Parliament, and further regulating such Elections, and for more effectual preventing corrupt and irregular Practices and Proceedings, in electing and returning such Members; be it enacted by the King’s most excellent Majesty, and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, that the Messenger attending the Great Seal, or other Officer, or Person who shall be appointed, employed, or intrusted by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Keeper, or Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal, for the time being, to carry, send, or deliver, any Writ or Writs, to be issued after the 25th of March 1722, for the Election of any Member or Members to serve in Parliament for any County, City, Borough, Town, or Place, within England, Wales, or the Town of Berwick upon Tweed, shall deliver, or cause such Writ or Writs to be delivered to the Sheriff, or other proper Officer, to whom the Execution thereof doth belong, and to no other Person whatsoever, within the respective Times following (that is to say) to such Sheriff, or Officer, whose then Place of Abode shall be within thirty Miles of the City of Westminster, within one Day next after the Delivery of such Writ or Writs to such Messenger, Officer, or Person intrusted as aforesaid; and to such Sheriff, or other Officer, whose then Place of Abode shall be above thirty Miles distant from Westminster, and within sixty Miles thereof, within two Days next after the Delivery as aforesaid; and all such Writs shall be so delivered in like Proportion of Time, for any greater Distance than sixty Miles from Westminster: And that every Messenger, or Person having or carrying any such Writ or Writs, shall not delay the same, but shall be obliged to travel immediately therewith, with all Expedition, after the Rate of thirty Miles every Day at the least, after the Receipt thereof, until the Delivery of the same to the Sheriff, or other proper Officer aforesaid; and any Person wilfully offending in the Premises, shall, for every such Offence, forfeit the Sum of 100 l. of lawful Money of Great Britain, to be recovered and applied in the manner hereafter mentioned.
And be it further enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, that the Messenger, or Person carrying such Writ or Writs, shall upon the Delivery thereof to the Sheriff, or proper Officer aforesaid, take a Receipt or Receipts for the same, which Receipt or Receipts the Sheriff, or proper Officer, is hereby required to give gratis, expressing the particular Days of the Receipt of such Writ or Writs, and the same Receipts shall be delivered by such Messenger, into the Office of the Clerk of the Crown, there to be filed and kept.
And be it further enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, that all Bonds, Contracts, or Agreements, given or made to any Sheriff, or other Returning Officer, to indemnify, or save harmless such Sheriff ot Returning Officer, for making a Return of any Member to serve in Parliament, or to pay to such Sheriff or Returning Officer, any Sum or Sums of Money, by Way of Gratuity or Reward, for making such a Return, or otherwise in respect thereof, are hereby declared to be null and void.
And be it further enacted, That every Person giving or making, and every Sheriff or Returning Officer accepting or taking such Bond or Agreement, shall respectively, for every such Offence, forfeit the Sum of one thousand Pounds, to be recovered and applied in manner herein after mentioned, and shall, from thenceforth, be incapable of holding or executing any Office or Employment of Profit or Trust under the Crown, or of being elected to serve in the House of Commons for any County or Place whatsoever.
And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That upon every future Election of any Member or Members to serve for the Commons in Parliament, every Elector, or Person having, or claiming to have, a Right to vote, or to be polled, at such Election, shall, before he is admitted to poll at the same Election (if required by any of the Candidates or Electors present) take the following Oath (or being one of the People called Quakers, shall make the solemn Affirmation appointed for Quakers) that is to say,
I, A. B. do swear (or affirm) that I have not received, or had, by myself or any other Person whatsoever, directly, or indirectly, any Sum or Sums of Money, Office, Place, Employment, Gift, or Reward, or any Promise or Security for any Money, Office, Employment, Gift, or Reward whatsoever, in order to give my Vote at this Election.
Which Oath, or Affirmation, the Officer, or Officers presiding or taking the Poll at such Election is, and are hereby impowered and required (upon such Request) to administer gratis, upon Pain to forfeit for every Neglect, or Refusal so to do, the Sum of forty Pounds of lawful Money of Great Britain.
And be it further enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That if any Person taking the Oath or Affirmation herein before mentioned, shall be guilty of wilful and corrupt Perjury, or of false affirming, and be thereof convicted, he and they, for every such Offence, shall incur and suffer the Pains and Penalties which are by Law enacted or inflicted in Cases of wilful and corrupt Perjury; and from and after such Conviction, shall be incapable of Voting in any Election of any Member or Members to serve for the Commons in Parliament.
And be it further enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That if, after the 25th Day of March, 1722, any Person or Persons, who, by Virtue of his or their Office or Employment, Offices or Employments, shall have the Power of issuing, or directing the Issuing, of any public Money or Moneys belonging to the Crown, shall order, give, issue, or promise to be concerted, in the ordering, giving, issuing, or promising any Sum or Sums of Money belonging to the Crown or the Public, to any Person or Persons, in order to influence the Election or Return of any Member or Members, to serve for the Commons in Parliament, or the Vote or Votes of any Elector or Electors in such Election, every such Officer, knowing the same to be issued for such corrupt Purposes, being thereof lawfully convicted, shall forfeit the Sum of 1000 l. of lawful Money of Great Britain, to be recovered and applied as herein after is directed, and shall be, ever after such Conviction, incapable of having, holding, enjoying, or executing any Office, Employment, or Place of Trust or Profit under the Crown, or of having or receiving any Benefit or Profit arising by, or from any such Office, Place, or Employment, or of having any Allowance or Pension from the Crown whatsoever; and shall be also disabled to sit or vote as a Member of the House of Commons.
And be it further enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That from and after the 25th of March 1722, every Person who shall be elected a Member of the House of Commons, for that Part of Great Britain called England, the Dominion of Wales, and Town of Berwick upon Tweed, or returned as such (except the eldest Sons of Peers, or of Persons qualified to serve as Knights of Shires, and the Members to serve for the two Universities in that Part of Great Britain called England,) shall be incapable to vote or sit in the said House during any Debate there, after their Speaker is chosen, until such Member shall have given into the Clerk of the House of Commons, a Paper signed by himself, containing a Recital or Particular of the Lands, Tenements, and Hereditaments, whereby he makes out his Qualification required by an Act passed in the 9th Year of the Reign of her late Majesty Queen Anne, (intitled, An Act for securing the Freedom of Parliaments, by the further qualifying the Members to sit in the House of Commons) and of such Lands, Tenements, and Hereditaments, whereof the Party hath not been in Possession, and in actual Perception of the Profits for one Year, to his own Use, before the Election: He shall also insert in the same Paper from what Person, and by what Conveyance or Act in Law, he claims and derives the same; and also the Consideration, if any paid, and the Names and Places of Abode of the Witnesses to such Conveyances and Payment, and until he shall have also taken the following Oath, viz. I A. B. do swear, that I truly and bona fide, have an Estate inLaw or Equity, to or for my own Use or Benefit, of, or in Lands, Tenements, or Hereditaments (over and above what will satisfy and clear all Incumbrances that may affect the same) of the annual Value of 600 l. above Reprizes, which do qualify me to be elected and returned to serve as a Member for the County of ———, according to the Tenor and true Meaning of an Act passed in the 9th Year of her late Majesty Queen Anne, (intitled, An Act for securing the Freedom of Parliaments, by the further qualifying the Members to fit in the House of Commons) and that my said Lands, Tenements, or Hereditaments are lying, and being within the Parishes, Townships, and Places mentioned in the Particular by me given in to the Clerk of the House of Commons: And in case such Person is returned to serve for any City, Borough, or Cinque-Port, then the said Oath shall relate duly to the Value of 300 l. per annum, and be taken to the same Effect (mutatis mutandis) as is hereby prescribed for the Oath of a Person to serve as a Member of such County as aforesaid: Which Oath shall be solemnly and publickly made between the Hours of nine in the Morning, and four in the Afternoon, by every such Member of the House of Commons, at the Table, in the Middle of the said House, and while a full House of Commons is there duly sitting, with their Speaker in his Chair.
And whereas, contrary to the true Meaning of the Laws now in being, for regulating the Electors of Parliament, to serve in Parliament for the Shires and Stewartries of that Part of Great Britain called Scotland, some of the Freeholders and Electors have sometimes presumed to separate themselves from the general Meeting of the Freeholders and Electors, and have, to make disputed Elections, elected separately a Member to serve in Parliament, and certified such Election to the Sheriff, or other Returning Officer; which Practices are of dangerous Consequence: For the preventing the like for the future, Be it declared and enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all such Separations and Certifications are, and shall be taken and deemed to be illegal, and utterly null and void, and that no Preses or Clerk, or other Person whatsoever, shall presume to return any Person to the Sheriff or Returning Officer (other than, and except the Preses and Clerks chosen in the Place where the Sheriffs Court, or Steward’s Court, is usually held, by the Majority of the Freeholders and Electors, inrolled, and upon Pain to forfeit as in the Case of a false Return).
And be it further enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That any Sheriff, or other Returning Officer, who shall take upon him to make a Return of any other Person but who is certified to him by the Clerk and Preses of the said Meeting, to have been elected by the Majority of the Freeholders inrolled, shall be liable to forfeit and pay 1000 l. Sterling, over and above the Penalties by Law, intitled upon Returning Officers making false Returns. And be it further enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That all pecuniary Penalties inflicted by this Act, shall be to the Informer or Prosecutor, who shall prosecute the Offender or Offenders, to Conviction, with full Costs, where such Penalties shall not exceed the Sum of 100 l. And of all other Penalties hereby inflicted, two Thirds shall be to such Informer or Prosecutor, with full Costs, and the other Third to the Poor of the Parish, or Place where the Offence shall be committed; and the said Penalties shall be recovered by Action of Debt, Bill, Plaint, or Information, in any of his Majesty’s Courts of Record at Westminster, or before the Lords of the Session in Scotland respectively. And in none of the Cases aforesaid, shall any Essoign, Privilege of Parliament, or other Privilege, Protection, or Wager of Law, be granted or allowed, nor any more than one Imparlance. Provided always, that every Information, Action, or Prosecution, grounded upon this Act, shall be commenced within the Space of one Year, next after the Cause of Action shall arise, or the Offence be committed, and not afterwards.
The first Part of this Bill was drawn up upon occasion of a pretended Election for the Borough of Minehead (on a Vacancy there) in favour of Mr. Richard Lane, who took the Writ from the Person ordered to convey it to the Returning Officer, and kept it in his Pocket till the very Day of Election, and yet he escaped unpunished, though the Messenger directed to carry the Writ was taken into Custody of the Serjeant at Arms: The other Parts of this Bill are home against Bribery, false Returns, and the Influence of the Exchequer, and to the utmost strict as to the Estates and Qualifications of Members of Parliament. Upon the whole, this Bill was gloriously designed; and I hope to see the Time (though it may not be very soon) when it will be enacted into a Law.
Thus I have gone through my Narrative, or History of the Septennial Parliament, the first of its Kind in Great Britain; whereby I have demonstrated how truly they have distinguished themselves in the making many excellent Laws, and rejecting of others; in their strict Attachment to our ancient Constitution, and not altering the same above once in a Session; in guarding the Rights, Liberties, and Properties of the Subject, like true Watchmen, upon all Emergencies; in relieving those Persons for whom the public Faith was engaged, and the punishing of Cheats and National Robbers; in easing our Pockets of the Burden of our Coin, and designing us Barracks for our future Residence; and lastly, in all these their Wisdom and Penetration, as well as Justice and Equity; on all which Accounts, I think, I may say, they have vastly exceeded all that ever went before them.