FREEDOM of ELECTIONS TO PARLIAMENT, A Fundamental Law and Liberty OF THE English Subject; AND SOME PRESIDENTS Shewing the Power of the House of Commons To inflict Punishments on Those who have been Guilty of Misdemeanours either in Ele­ctions or Returns. In a Letter to a Member of PARLIAMENT. According to the Constitution of the English Government, and Immemorial Custom, All Elections of Parliament-men ought to be made with an Entire Liberty, without any sort of Force, or requiring the Electors to chuse such Persons as shall be named to them; and the Persons thus freely Elected, ought to give their Opinions freely upon all matters that are brought before them, having the Good of the Nation ever before their eyes, and following in all things the Dictates of their Conscience. P. of Orange's Declaration.

London: Printed for Dan. Brown, at the Black-Swan and Bible without Temple-Bar; and Tim. Goodwin, at the Maiden-head over-against St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet-street. 1690.


ACcording to your Commands, I have now sent you, out of my little reading, a true Information of what Punishments the House of Commons have inflicted upon such Persons, who by fraud, force, or bribery, have violated the Ancient Liberties and Free­doms of the Commons of Eng­land, in making undue Returns of Members to serve in Parliament: And what I have here done in pure Obe­dience, I hope you will receive with all friendly Can­dor and Benignity; but you will give me leave first, I hope, to say something concerning our undoubted Right to the Freedom of Elections.

I find it, Sir, very clear, that it hath been accusto­med of old times to have Free Elections; and that this was a Fundamental Law and Liberty of Eng­land. For the Statute of Westminster the first (which was made above four hundred years ago, by the Assent An. Dom. 1274. of the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Priors, Earls, Ba­rons, and all the Comminalty of the Realm thither summoned) provideth, That Elections should be freely and duly made, without any disturbance whatsoever; but I will give it you in its own words.

Because Elections ought to be Free, the King Rastall's Stat. fol. 15. 3 E. 1. cap. 5. commandeth upon great Forfeiture, That no Great Man, nor Other, by force of Arms, nor by [Page 2] malice or menacing, shall disturb any to make Free Election.

For it was a Right and Liberty which the good People of England had confirmed to them fifty years An. Dom. 1224. before, as appears by the 9th Chapter of the Statute of Magna Charta, Anno 9. Hen. 3. which says, That the City of LONDON shall have ALL the Old Magna Charta 9 H. 3. cap. 9. Liberties and Customs which it hath been used to have. And then it does immediately follow, More­over, We will and grant, That ALL other Cities, Burroughs, Towns, and the Barons of the Five Ports, and all other Ports, shall have all their Liberties and Free Customs.

Liberties are here taken for Priviledges, such as (my Lord Coke says) of Right the People had before.

And in his Comment upon the abovementioned 2. Inst. fol. 168, 169. Chapter of Westminster 1. he bids us see the Statute of 7 H. 4. which says, ‘That for Knights of the Shires 7 H. 4. cap. 15. for the Parliament in full County, a free and indiffe­rent Election shall be made, notwithstanding any Prayer or Commandment to the contrary.’

This Statute was made at the grievous Complaint of the Commons, being interrupted of their Free Ele­ction 4 Inst. fol. 10. by the King's Letters Patents, by pretext of an Ordinance in the Lords House in 46 Edw. 3. but for Rot. Parl. 46 E. 3. n. 13. the future it was to be sine prece, without any Prayer, or Gift; and sine proecepto, without Commandment of the King, by Writ, or otherwise, or of any other. And, he says, this was an Act but declaratory of the Ancient Law, and Custom of Parlia­ment.

There were two Mischiefs before the making of this 2. Inst. 169. Statute, as my Lord Coke observes.

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  • 1. For that Elections were not duly made.
  • 2. That Elections were not freely made.

And both these were against the ancient Maxim of the Law, Fiant Electiones ritè & liberè sine interrupti­one aliqua; And again, Electio libera est; for before Regula. 7 H. 6. 12. [...]. this Act, in the irregular Reign of H. 3. the Electors had neither their free nor their due Elections; for sometimes by force, sometimes by menaces, and sometimes by malice, the Electors were framed, or wrought to make Election of Men Unworthy, and not Eligible, so as their Election was neither due nor free. This Act briefly rehearseth the Old Rule of the Note, Com­mon-Law is ge­neral Prescrip­tion; and that Prescription is before 1 R. 1. who was elder Brother to King John, Fa­ther to H. 3. Common-Law (for that Elections ought to to be free) wherein both the said Points are included. 1. It must be a due Election; and 2. It must be a free Election.

This Statute doth enact, That no Man, upon grie­vous Forfeiture, shall disturb any to make free Ele­ction, and is excellently penned in two respects.

First, For that generally it extendeth to all Ele­ctions; that is to say, to every Dignity, Office, or Place elective, be it Ecclesiastical or Temporal, of what kind or quality soever.

The Act is penned in the Name of the King, viz. The King commandeth; and therefore the King bindeth himself not to disturb any Electors to make free Election, as in the like Case upon a Statute made in the Reign of the said King; the Act saying, Rex Westm. 2. 13 E. 1. cap. 1. 2 Inst. 332. perpendens, &c. the same bound the King.

Now that Electors might make free and due Ele­ctions without displeasure or fear thereof, by this Act [Page 4] of Parliament, as a sure defenee, the King comman­deth the same upon grievous forfeiture.

And this Act extends to All Elections, as well by those that at the making of this Act had Power to make them, as by those whose Power was raised or created since this Act.

Grievous Forfeiture.] That is, the Disturbers Nota benè. to be punished by grievous Fines and Imprison­ments. Thus far the Learned Chief-Justice Coke.

And it is observed, says the same Great Man, that 4 Inst. 1. when there is best Appearance, there is the best Suc­cess in Parliament.

Therefore there was a special Act of Parliament made on purpose in the 5th R. 2. to command all Rast. Stat. 140. 5 R. 2. cap. 4. and singular Persons and Communalties, which from thenceforth should have the Sum­mons of the Parliament, to come to the Par­liament in the manner as they were bounden to do, and had been accustomed within the Realm of England of old times. And if any person so summoned (be he Archbishop, Bishop, Abbot, Prior, Duke, Earl, Baron, Banneret, Knight of the Shire, Ci­tizen of City, Burgess of Burgh, or other singular Person or Communalty) should absent himself, and come not at the said Summons (except he could reasonably and honestly excuse him­self) he should be amerced, and otherwise punished, according as of old times had been used to be done within the Realm.

And if any Sheriff should from thenceforth be Sheriffs negli­gence in making Returns. negligent in making his Returns of Writs of the Parliament, or leave out of the said Returns Or Omission. any Cities or Burroughs, which were bound, and of old times wont to come to Parliament, he [Page 5] should be punished in the manner as was accustomed to be done in the said Case in time past.

The Parliament was anciently Adjourned of course till a Further day, because that several of the Lords and Commons were not come up, nor their Writs re­turned: and the declaring the Causes of calling it, was usually deferred till they were all come up, and appear­ed, as you may see in several places of Cotton's Abridg­ment of Records: For instance, 6 E. 3. n. 5. 13 E. 3. Cotton's A­bridg. Sparsim. n. 5. 15 E. 3. n. 4, 5. 17 E. 3. n. 2. 20 E. 3. n. 5, 6. 21 E. 3. n. 4. 22 E. 3. n. 1. 25 E. 3. n. 1. 42 E. 3. n. 1. 51 E. 3. n. 3. 2 R. 2. n. 1. 4 R. 2. n. 1, 2. 5 R. 2. n. 65. 6 R. 2. n. 1. 9 R. 2. n. 1. 9 H. 4. n. 1, 2. The Par­liament was adjourned, because sundry of the Commons House made default, and were absent. So careful were our Prudent Ancestors to have a Full Representative of the whole Kingdom, whenever a Parliament was to meet, before they would proceed to act in any publick business, to prevent all Surprises that might be feared from any Party whatsoever, but especially in the ma­king and enacting of publick and general Laws, and giving of Subsidies and Aids to the Crown; for they well remembred the good old Rule of their Prede­cessors, quod omnes tangit, ab omnibus approbetur.

King James the First, in a Message sent down to the Journ. Dom Com. Die Ve­neris 27 Feb. 4. Jac. 1. An. Dom. 1606. House of Commons, said to this effect, That every Mem­ber who did serve for a Town or a Shire, his Attendance and Service in the House was a very great Duty; and that the Departure or Absence of Any Member of the House of Commons, was a greater Contempt, than Any Nobleman's Departure, who served only for himself.

And the Reason is very plain and obvious; for it was not only necessary that Both Houses should be full at [Page 6] their first Meeting, but that they should continue so to be, as long as the Parliament it self continued; and this appears by a Declarative Statute, made in the 6th Hen. 8. which says, that Forasmuch as commonly 6 H. 8. cap. 16. in the end of Every Parliament, divers and many great and weighty Matters, as well touching the Pleasure, Weal, and Surety of the King, as the Common-weal of the Realm, and Subjects thereof, are to be Treated, Com­muned of, and by Authority of Parliament to be Concluded; so it is, that divers Knights of Shires, Citizens for Cities, Burgesses for Burroughs, and Barons for the Cinque-Ports, long time before the end of the Parliament, of their own Authorities depart, and go home in­to their Countries, whereby the said great and weighty matters are many times greatly delay­ed. Therefore it was provided by the said Act, That Rast. Statutes 429. 6 H. 8. cap. 16. no Knight, Citizen, Burgess, or Barons of the Cinque­ Ports, that for the future should be Elected to come, or be in any Parliament, should depart from the Parliament, nor absent themselves from the same, without the License of the Spea­ker and Commons in Parliament assembled, to be entred upon Record in the Book of the Clerk of the Parliament, upon pain to lose all those Sums of Money, which he or they should or ought to have had for his or their Wages. And that all the Counties, Cities, and Burroughs, where­of any such Person should be Elected, and the In­habitants of the same, should be clearly dischar­ged of the said Wages against the said Person and Persons, and their Executors for ever­more.

But to return to what this may seem to be a digressi­on from.

King Richard the Second, through the unconfined Flattery of his Ambitious Favourites, being driven on to fierce and violent Ruptures with the other Great Men of the Land, who opposed the Male-administration of those Publick Enemies to the King and Kingdom's Peace Tho. Walsing. Histor. Angl. fol. 329. and Happiness; and being to call a Parliament in the Eleventh Year of his Reign, was advised to Summon all the Sheriffs of England unto Nottingham-Castle, and to enquire of them what Power they could raise for him in every County, against those Great Men that Closetting advi­sed by the Kings Chief Ministers. did so oppose both him and his beloved Minions; and charged them, ut Ipsi nullum Militem de pago vel Schira permitterent eligi, nisi quem Rex, & ejus Concilium ele­gissent. Whereunto the Sheriffs answered, That all the Commons favoured those Great Men; neither was it in Mr. Prinns Plea for the Lords, and House of Peers, p. 384, 385. their Power to raise any Army or Force in that Cause: De Militibus eligendis dixerunt, Communes velle tenere consuetudines Ʋsitatas, quae volunt, quod à communibus Milites eligantur. Whereupon they were dismissed.

Upon that the King soon after issuing out Writs to the Sheriffs to elect Knights and Burgesses for the Parlia­ment, inserted this strange and unusual Clause into Rot. Claus. 11 R. 2. m 24. dorso. them, that they should chuse such men as were in de­batis modernis magis indifferentes.

But the King being quickly after informed by his Councel, that that Clause in those Writs was an illegal Clause, sent out New Writs to supersede those other, wherein it was declared by him, Dictam Clausulam [viz. in Debatis modernis magis indifferentes] contra formam Electionis antiquitùs usitatae ac contra Libertatem Domi­norum Rot. Claus. 11 R. 2. m 23. dorso. & Communitatis Regni Angliae eatenus obtentam existere.

But notwithstanding all this, his Favourites, suae pelii timentes (as Tho. Walsingham's words are) to protect and cover themselves from the common and deserved Justice of the Nation, perswaded him so highly to in­vade the Ancient Form of Elections, and the Liberties of the Lords and Commons, (and you know, Sir, that the People of England have in all Ages been celebrated for their firm Adherence to their good Old Liberties and Priviledges) that at last it became one of the Vide Cotton's Abridg. of Rec. 1 H. 4. fo. 386. n. 18. 33 Ar­ticles for which he was Deposed. It begins thus;

Artic. 19. Item, licet de Statuto & Consuetudine Regni, Although by the Statute and Custom of the Realm, Prin's Plea for the Lords, p. 438. in the calling together of every Parliament, the People [in singulis Comitatibus Regni debeat esse Liber ad eli­gendum & deputandum Milites pro hujusmodi Comitati­bus ad interestendum Parliamento] ought to be free in chusing and deputing Knights to be present in such Parliaments for each respective County, and to declare their Grievances, and to prosecute such Remedies thereupon, prout eis videretur expedire; as to them should seem expedient. Yet the King, ut in Parliamentis suis liberiùs consequi valeat suae temerariae Voluntatis effectum, that he might in his Par­liaments be able more arbitrarily to accomplish the effects of his head-strong will, did very often direct his commands to his Sheriffs, ut certas personas per ipsum Re­gem nominatas, ut Milites Comitatuum, venire faciant ad Parliamenta sua, that they should cause to come to his Parliaments, as Knights of the Shire, certain Persons named by the King; which Knights being his Favou­rites, he might lead, as often he had done, quandóque per minas varias & terrores, quandóque per Munera, some­times by various Menaces and Terrors, and sometimes by Gifts, to consent to those things as were prejudicial to [Page 9] the Kingdom, and exceeding burthensome to the Peo­ple; and especially to grant to the King a Subsidy on Wool for the term of his Life, and another Subsidy for certain Years, thereby too grievously oppressing his People.

I shall descend from that unfortunate Prince, to King 23 H. 6. cap. 15. Hen. 6. and there in the 23d year of his Reign, (al­most 256 years ago) a Statute was made, intituled, Who shall be Knights for the Parliament. The manner of their Election. The Remedy where one is chosen, and Pulton's Stat. fol. 349. another returned. In the Body of which we read, That every Sheriff, after the delivery of the Writ to him made, shall make and deliver without fraud a Precept under his Seal, to every Mayor, and Bailiff or Bayliffs, or Bailiff, where no Mayor is, of the Cities and Buroughs within his County, reciting the Writ, com­manding them, if it be a City, to chuse by Ci­tizens of the same City, Citizens; and if a Burough, Burgesses, to come to the Parlia­ment; and such Officers as aforesaid shall re­turn Lawfully such Precept to the same Sheriff, by Indentures between them, of such Electi­ons, and the Names of the Citizens and Bur­gesses so chosen, and thereupon every Sheriff shall make a good and Rightful Return of every such Writ, and of every Return by such Officers as aforesaid.

And every Sheriff, at every time that he does contrary to this Statute, or any 3 E. 1.other Statutes for the Election of Knights, Citi­zens, and Burgesses, shall incur the pain con­tained in the Statute of 8 H. 6. (which is to 8 H. 6. cap. 7. [Page 10] forfeit 100 l. to the King, and suffer Note The difference of the Va­lue of 100 l. then, and 100 l. now, for K. H. 8. left to his Two Daughters by his Will no more than 10000 l. a piece, who were afterwards Queens of England. a Years Imprisonment, without Bail or Mainprize) and moreover shall forfeit and pay to every Person so chosen, Knight, Citizen, or Bur­gess, and not duly returned, or to any other Person, who in default of any such Knight, Citizen, or Burgess, will sue, 100 l. more, to be recover'd by Action of Debt a­gainst the said Sheriff, or his Execu­tors, The publick Detestation and Abhorrence of pack'd Returns of Knights, Citizens, and Bur­gesses to Parliament. or Administrators, with his or their Costs in such case dispended, in­which Action the Defendant shall not wage his Law, nor have any Essoign allowed.

And in the same manner, at every time that any Mayor and Bailiffs, or Bailiff, or Bailiffs where no Mayor is, shall return other than those who be chosen by the Citizens and Bur­gesses, of the Cities or Buroughs, where such Elections shall be made, they shall incur and for­feit to the King 40 l. and moreover 40 l. to the Person so chosen and not returned, to be reco­vered in manner as aforesaid, by such Person chosen, or any other who in their Default will sue for the same.

One would imagine that after such an Act as this was made, it should scarce ever be attempted by any to invade our Liberties, especially in a point that so nearly concerns the Salvation of all our Interests: For as the old Lord Treasurer Burleigh (who was account­ed the greatest Statesman that ever this Nation had) was often heard to say, That England could hardly ever be ruined, unless it were by her own Parliaments; so we need never to fear that Parliaments will undo us, unless we [Page 11] suffer ourselves to be cozen'd into Slavery by being cheat­ed out of our Best and Highest Rights, I mean † Prince of O­range's Decla­ration. our Entire Freedoms of Electing such for our Representatives, with whom we can with confidence trust our Religion, Lives, Honours, Liberties, Estates, and Posterity: But if the Nation shall at any time hereafter be so careless as to permit a pack'd House of Commons to be put upon her, she may then indeed be given up as an easie Prey to the Arbitrary Pleasure and Lust of those contriving Ma­nagers of her Ruin, and (what will still add Weight and Aggravation to her Misery) as she falls with Scorn, so she will fall unpitied to all Christendom.

Thus was that weak Prince, King Henry the Sixth, 23 H. 6. 38 H. 6. call'd the Coventry Parliament. imposed upon by his evil Councellors and Favourites, but fifteen years after the making of this last mentioned Statute, and what were the miserable Effects thereof; you shall hear the Parliament of the next Year following at Westminster declare, in these words, That divers sedi­tious and evil disposed Persons, having no re­gard 39. H. 6. cap 1. Rastalls Stat. fol. 287. to the Dread of God, nor to the Damage of the prosperous Estate of the King, nor his Realm, sinisterly and importunely did labour with the King to summon a Parliament to be holden at his City of Coventry, the 20th day of the Month of November, the 38th year of his Reign, only to destroy certain of the great Nobles, faithful and law­ful Lords and Estates of the King's Blood, and other of the faithful Liege-people of the Realm of England, for the great Rancour, Hatred, and Malice, which the said Seditious Persons of long time have had against them: And of their greedy and insatia­ble Covetousness to have the Lands, Hereditaments, Possessions, Offices, and Goods of the said Lords and faithful Liege-people; by which sinister labour [Page 12] certain Acts, Statutes, & Ordinances, against all good Faith and Conscience, in the said Parlia­ment were made, finally to destroy the said law­ful Lords, Estates, and Liege-people, and their Issues, as well Innocents as other, and their Heirs, for ever; which Parliament was unduly sum­moned, and a great part of the Knights for di­vers Counties of this Realm, and many Burgesses and Citizens, for divers Buroughs and Cities in the same appearing were named, Returned and ac­cepted, some of them without due and free Electi­on, some of them without any Election, against the All Kings that are not Ty­rants, or perju­red, will be glad to bound them­selves within the limits of their Laws; and they that perswade them the contrary, are Vipers, and Pests, both against them and the Commonwealth. K. James 1. Speech to his Parl. 1609. in his Works, fol. 531. Course of the King's Laws, and the Liberties of the Commons of this Realm, by the means and la­bours of the said seditious Persons, whereby many great Ieopardies, Enormities, and Inconve­niences, well nigh to the Ruin, Decay, and Uni­versal Subversion of the said Realm have ensued.

And therefore the King, considering the pre­mises, and that the said Lords, Estates, and other his Leige-people, against whom the said Acts, Statutes and Ordinances were made, had always had great and faithful Love to the Preferment and Surety of the King's Person, according to their Duty: and that few of the Acts made in the said Parliament holden at Coventry, were made for the Weal of the King, nor of his said Realm, but the greater part of the Acts, Statutes, and Ordinances there made, were laboured by the Conspiracy, Procurement, and Exci­tation of the said evil disposed persons, for the in­troduction [Page 13] and accomplishment of their Rancour and inordinate Covetise: It was Ordained and Established by the Authority of the then Parliament, That the said Parliament holden at the said City of Coventry, be void, and holden for no Par­liament. The King, Lords, and Commons, in 39 H. 6. de­clare the whole Parliament of Coventry, An. 38 H. 6. to be void, and holden for no Parliament; and all the Acts of it are repealed, and made void, because of the undue and unfree Election of Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses to that Parliament. And that all Acts, Statutes, and Or­dinanres, by the Authority of the same made, be reversed, adnulled, undone, repealed, revo­ked, void, and of no force nor effect.

And although those Acts were repealed upon the justest Grounds and Reason in the world; yet so great and powerful was the Coventry-Faction, that it raised such a Fermentation throughout the whole Kingdom, as never left working, till it had effectually wrought the utter Ruin of Henry VI. and his Son Prince Edward, as the * Historians, joind with our Cotton's Rec. Speed's History. Records, do fully shew, and make manifest.

But now it will not be hors de propos to examine the Writ of Summons it self; for therein we shall find several Observables worth our taking notice of: As,

1. That it plainly directs to, and enjoins an entire Freedom in the Election of all those that are to be sent up to serve in Parliament. The words are, Tibi prae­cipimus Crompton's Ju­risd. p. 1, b. firmi èr injungentes, quod, &c. Duos milites gladiis cinctos magis Idoneos & Discretos Comitat' prae dicti, & de qualibet Civitate Duos Cives, & de quoli­bet Burgo Duos Burgenses de Discretioribus & magis sufficientibus libèrè & indifferentòr Eligi fac, &c. And this is commanded to be done juxta formam Statutorum inde edit. & provis'; that is, That they be freely and in­differently [Page 14] chosen, according to the Tenor of the Sta­tutes in that Case made and provided.

2. And the Writ does proceed further, and says, Ità quod iidem Milites plenam & sufficientem potestatem pro se & Commanitate Comit', &c. ac dict' Cives & Bur­genses pro se & Communitat'. Civitatum & Burgorum divisim ab ipsis habeant, ad faciendum & consentiendum his quae tunc ibidem de Communi Concilio Regni conti­gerint ordinari super quibusdam Arduis & Ʋrgentibus Negotiis, Regem, Statum & Defensionem Regni Angliae, & Ecclesiae Anglicanae concernen': That the said Knights, for themselves, and for their County; and the said Citi­zens and Burgesses, for themselves, and the Commonalty of their Cities and Burroughs, may have severally from them full and sufficient Power to perform and to consent to those things which shall there happen to be ordained by the Common-Council of the Kingdom, concerning the arduous and urgent Businesses of the King, the State, and Defence of the Kingdom of England, and the Eng­lish Church.

3. But this is not all yet we shall observe from the Writ; there is another Clause that carries a great weight along with it, and that is this, viz.

Ità quod pro defectu Potestatis hujusmodi, seu propter improvidam Electionem Militum, Civium, aut Burgensium, dicta Negotia infecta non remaneant quovis modo; i. e.

So that the business may not by any means remain undone for want of such power, or by reason of the im­provident Election of the Knights, Citizens, or Bur­gesses.

One would think, there needed no more than this very Writ, to convince and satisfie all men, that our Choice of Representatives to serve us in Parliament, ought to be with all the Freedom, Fairness, and Impartiality that can be; and that all vile Tricks and Artifices should be abhorred: For how can those be fully and sufficiently authorised and empowered to act for the Good and Safety of the King and Kingdom, that have not been freely elected by the People, who must give them that Power, which is absolutely necessary to make what they do to become valid, and to be accounted the Statutes of the Realm?

But notwithstanding these good and wholsom Laws to secure the Freedom of Elections, and the plain form of the Writ of Summons pursuant to these Statutes, and the ancient Custom of the Kingdom; yet some Men we have read of, have been so bold and daring in their at­tempts, as to bid open defiance to them.

And although every Parliament almost since H. 6.'s time, hath heard loud Complaints against the dangerous Consequences of illegal Elections, yet no Parliament (though many good Men have, by bringing Bills into the House of Commons, designed to prevent undue Ele­ctions) hath had the happiness, for the general Peace and Quiet of the Nation, to regulate and amend that which so bare-facedly tended to the * Traiterous Sub­version The 5th Article of High-Treason against the five Members in K. Charles I.'s time, says, That they had traiterously endeavoured to subvert the very Rights and Beings of Parliaments. Husbands Collect. 4to. p. 35 Sanderson's Hist. 473. of the very Rights and Beings of Parliament.

I shall therefore here in the next place subjoin some few Precedents, to shew you how Misdemeanors in Elections have been formerly punished by the House of Commons, in the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth, King [Page 16] James, and King Charles I. But one word first, concerning Violent and Irregular Elections and Re­turns.

In an Oration (made by a Worthy Gentleman, viz. Mr. John Hales, whom I take by the Contexture of it Fox's Book of Martyrs, last Edit. 3. Vol. fol. 819. Col. 1. to be one of the Long Robe) to Queen Elizabeth, and which was delivered to Her Majesty by a certain No­bleman, at her first entrance to her Reign; he tells her, ‘That Queen Mary's first Parliament, wherein She and Idem fol. 820. Col. 2. her Council grounded and wrought a great part of their Tyranny, and wherein they meant to overthrow whatsoever King Edward had for the Advancement of God's Glory brought to pass, was of no force or Au­thority: For she perceiving her Enemies stomach could not be emptied, nor Her malice spewed on the People by any good Order, she committed a great Disorder. She by Force and Violence took from the Commons their Liberty, that according to the Ancient Laws and Customs of the Realm, they could not have their Free Election of Knights and Burgesses for the Parliament; for she well knew, that if either Christian-men or true English men should be elected, it was not possible that to succeed which she intended. And therefore in many places divers were chosen by force of her Threats, meet to serve her malicious Affecti­ons; wherefore that Parliament was no Par­liament, but may be justly called a Conspiracy of Tyrants and Traytors; for the Great Part, by whose Authority and Voices things proceeded in that Court, by their Acts most manifestly declared them­selves so; the rest being both Christians and true Eng­lish-men, although they had good wills, yet were not able to resist or prevail against the multitude of Voices and Suffrages of so many evil, false to God, and Enemies [Page 17] to their Country. Also divers Burgesses being orderly chosen, and lawfully returned, as in some places the people did what they could to resist her purposes, were disorderly and unlawfully put out, and others, without any Order of Law, in their places placed.’

But it was meant at the first, and First Constitu­tion Sir Simonds D'Ewe's Journ. fol. 170. Col. 2. 13 Eliz. 1571. of Parliament, (as is observed by a Learned Mem­ber in Sir Simonds D'Ewes Journal), That Men of every Quarter, and of all sorts, should come to the Commons House; and that they should be Freely Chosen.

And therefore he says, ‘In Queen Mary's time, a Idem Ibid. Col. 2. Council of this Realm (not the Queens Privy Coun­cil) did write to a Town, to chuse a Bishop's Brother, (and a great Bishop's Brother he was indeed), whom they assured to be a good Catholick Man; and willed them to chuse to the like of him some other fit Man. The Council was answer'd, That they were prohibi­ted by Law. And then he goes on, 'If all Towns in England had done the like in their Choice, the Crown had not been so wrong'd, and the Realm so robb'd, with such ease, at that Parliament of Queen Mary's, and Truth banished as it was. And he adds, What hath been, may be, there is no impossibility.

And accordingly it happened in the same 13th year of Queen Elizabeth, that a Burgess by Bribery had got to be Elected: but what His and the Corporations Pu­nishments were for such foul dealings, I will now set down, as the first Precedent.

‘1. Forasmuch as Thomas Long, Gentleman, return­ed one of the Burgesses for the Burrough of Westbury Sir Sim. ut sup. fol. 182. Col. 2. in the County of Wilts for that present Parliament, being a very simple Man, and of small Capacity to [Page 18] serve in that Place, did in open Court confess, That 10 May 13 E­liz. 1571. Vid. 4 Inst. 23. he did give to Anthony Garland, Mayor of the said Town of Westbury, and unto one—Wats of the same Town, the Sum of Four Pounds, for that place and room of Burgesship.’

It was Ordered by the House, ‘That the said An­thony Garland and the said Wats should forthwith re­pay unto the said Thomas Long the same Sum of Four Pounds,’

And also that a Fine of Twenty Pounds be assessed upon the said Corporation, or Inhabitants of the said Town of Westbury, for the Queens Majesties Use, for their said lewd and slanderous Attempt.

And that the said Thomas Long, his Executors and Administrators, should be discharged against the said Anthony Garland, and—Wats, their Heirs, Exe­cutors, and Administrators, of and from all Bonds made by the said Thomas Long, to any person or per­sons, touching the discharge of the exercise of the said room or place of Burgesship in any wise.

And on the 11th of May, it was Ordered, That a Pursuivant be sent with Letters from the House to Anthony Garland, Mayor of the Town of Westbury in the County of Wilts, and—Wats of the same Id. Ibid. Town, for their personal appearance forthwith to be made in the House; and also to bring with them all such Bonds, as Thomas Long Gentleman, lately returned one of the Burgesses for the same Town, standeth bound in unto Them, or either of them, or unto any Other to their Use. And also to answer unto such Matters as at their coming shall be objected against them by the House.

2. In the Parliament of the 18th Jacobi primi, the 2. The Mayor of Winchelsea's Case, Journ. Dom. Com. 18 Jac. 1. Mayor of Winchelsea, for misbehaving of himself at the Election of Parliament-men for that Town, and for making a False Return, was complained of; and there­fore it was, upon the Question,


That the Mayor of Winchelsea had committed a The Judgment of the House a­gainst him. Contempt and Misdemeanour against that House, and therefore shall stand committed to the Serjeant till Saturday morning; then making his Submission there at the Bar, to be discharged of any further Punishment there.

But he was to make his further Acknowledgment in N. B. the Town before the New Election.

3. Anno 20o of King James the First, Dr. Harris, Mi­nister of Blechingly, who had misbehaved himself by 3. Dr. Harris's Case, Journ. Dom. Com. 20 Jac. 1. Preaching, and otherwise with respect to Election of Members of Parliament there, and being complained of in the House, and referred to a Committee; The Committee was clearly satisfied, That it was a High and Great Offence; and they are of Opinion he should be called to the Bar as a Delinquent, to be admonished, and to confess his Fault there, and in the Country, and in the Pulpit of his Parish-Church, on Sunday seven-night before the Sermon.

The Doctor was brought to the Bar, and kneel­ed; the House agreed with the Committee, and Mr. Speaker pronounced Judgment upon him accor­dingly.

4. In the same year of the same King, upon the 4. The Mayor of Arundel's Case, Journ. Dom. Com. 20 Jac. 1. Report of Mr. Glanville, concerning the Burrough of Arundel, because the Mayor had misbehaved himself in the Election, by putting the Town to a great deal of Charge, not giving a due and general warning, but pack'd a number of Electors; It was


1. That a Warrant be sent for the Mayor, he not be­ing then in Town; And

2. That three Members shall set down the Charges, and the Mayor shall pay them.

5. Anno 20o King James the First, Mr. Glanville 5. The Case of In­gray, the Un­der-Sheriff of Cambridgshire Journ. Dom. Com. 21 Jac. 1. reports the Misdemeanour of the Under-Sheriff of Cam­bridgeshire, who refused the Poll, declaring Sir Tho­mas Steward promised him to defend him against Sir John Cutts, and told him he should have no wrong nor damage.

Resolved upon the Question,

1. That this Ʋnder-Sheriff shall be committed to the Serjeants Custody till Thursday next.

2. That making his Submission at the Bar, and ac­knowledging his Offence, he shall be discharged from any further Punishment in this place.

3. That the Ʋnder-Sheriff shall make a further sub­mission openly at the next Quarter-Sessions to be holden in the County, and acknowledg his faults.

Edward Ingry was brought to the Bar, and kneeling upon his knees, Mr. Speaker denounced the Judgment of the House upon him.

6. In the Parliament Anno 3 Caroli 1. (Where­in 6. The Case of Sir W. Wray, Mr. Langton, Mr. J. Trelawny, and Mr. E. Tre­lawny. Journ. Dom. Com. 3 Car. 1. the excellent Petition of Right, or rather a Comment, or Explanation of several Branches of Magna Charta was made) Sir William Wray, Mr. Langton, Mr. John Trelawny, and Mr. Edward Trelawny, being Deputy-Lieutenants of the County of Cornwal, assumed to themselves a Power to make whom They only pleased, Knights of the Shire, defamed Sir John Elliot, and Mr. Coryton; who stood to be cho­sen, sent up and down the Countrey, Letters for the Trained-Bands, to appear at the day of Election; me­nac'd the Countrey under the Title of His Majesties Plea­sure.

It was Ordered,

1. That Mr. Langton, and Mr. John Trelawny, be committed to the Tower, for their Offence done to the House, there to remain during the Pleasure of the House, and that they make a submissive acknowledgment of their Offences.

2. And Sir William Wray, and Mr. Edward Trelaw­ny, be committed to the Serjeant, and so to remain, till they make their Recognition in the House.

After all which, the Question was, Whether the Gen­tlemen should make the Recognition at the Assizes in Cornwall, or No? And it was Ordered,

That the Recognition and Submission should be made in the Countrey; and a Committee was appointed [Page 22] to draw the Recognition, and they were sent to the Tower.

The Four Gentlemen were called in to the Bar, and the Speaker pronounced the Judgment upon them, they kneeling all that time.

7. Mr. Hackwell reports from the Committee about 7. The Case of the Sheriffs of York and others. Journ. Dom. Com. 3 & 4 Car. 1. Tuesday April 29. Sher. Thomp­son's Two Of­fences. the Sheriffs of York, and others, for the Election of Sir Thomas Savill.

The Two Sheriffs and the Two Aldermen are Delin­quents; one of the Sheriffs, and one of the Aldermen are most faulty; Sheriff Thompson had committed Two Offences.

1. His hasty and precipitate Judgment of the Ele­ction, His First. to prevent the Election of Hoy.

2. In denying the Poll, being required. His Second.

First, his hasty and precipitate Judgment was done without acquainting his Fellow-Sheriff, and it was within a quarter of an hour after the reading of the Writs, and half an hour after nine a Clock; and while he was doing of it, he was admonished, and told that he could not answer it, and that he might defer it; yet he did obstinately proceed, and answered them frowardly, and said he would do it, and that he would justify it.

His Excuse was, That it was indeed suddenly done, His Excuse. but it was done so formerly: But to that it was replied, that never before above two were in Election.

Secondly, he answer'd, That it was not of his own head, but some Aldermen advised it; but that was Al­derman Cooper, a Delinquent for that Offence.

For the other Offence; in denying the Poll, after it His 2d Offence. was demanded, and that was before he had pronounced any Judgment, but he was willing that Robinson should have the Poll, for he knew he could not carry it; but he refused Hoy, and he was required ten times, but His Impudent Behaviour. gave no answer at all. His Behaviour before the Com­mittee was impudent, and he would answer nothing di­rectly.

The Committee found this man to be an engaged man, and that he was promised to be saved harmless.

For Alderman Henlow, he procured the Company of Ald. Henlow. Taylors, two days before the Election, and published Sir John Savill's Letter, and pressed it; and upon some he pressed it so much, that they should elect Sir Tho­mas Savill; and said the Parliament will not hold.

He dealt with the Sheriffs also, and told them divers words of Sir John Savil, that he would take it very ill; and, said he, if you will chuse Sir Thomas Savill, you shall be saved harmless.

Also he endeavoured to procure a Certificate, that Sir Thomas Savill was duly elected; when any refused, he said they were factious fellows, and otherwise threat­ned.

The Committee censured Sheriff Thomson, and this The Commit­tees Censure. Alderman Henlow.

First, That they should stand committed to the Ser­jeant, during pleasure.

Secondly, That they should acknowledg their Offences at the Bar in the Full House, and pay all due Fees, be­fore they be discharged.

Thirdly, Also they should defray all the Charges of the Witnesses of Alderman Hoy, to be assessed by Four of the Committee.

Lastly, And that they should make acknowledgment of their Fault, before the Court of Aldermen at York, and that the Mayor should certisie the Submission to the House.

As for Alderman Cooper, he assembled the Company Ald. Cooper. of Merchants, and read Sir John Savil's Letter for the Election of his Son, and also he at the Election persuaded the Sheriff to give Judgment.

Sheriff Atkins was only passive, and did not refuse Sher. Atkins. to join with the other Sheriff.

As for the point of Charges given to the Witnesses of Hoy, it was doubtful, and objected against by some, whether in the Power of the House; but it was re­plied, That in every Court it is necessary to have Power to impose Fines, and why we should want Power for Of­fences that lie in our cognizance, is not to be questioned; else the Party that is duly Elected, and that justifies the Free Election, and maintains the Freedom and Liberty of the Common-wealth, shall be more punished than the Delinquent; also we have power to imprison, which is more than a Fine; also we have as much as the Lords House in those things that lye in our Jurisdiction. Seve­ral Instances were here given of Fining persons, which I omit.

I shall observe as to their Power of Imprisoning, that Crompton's Ju­risdict. p. 8, 9, 10, 11. in the 34 H. 8. almost 150 years ago, for Breach of Privilege, the Sheriffs of London, in Ferrers case, were committed to the Tower of London, and the Clerk (who Crompton was a Learned Lawyer of the Middle Temple, and Reader in 1573. the 15th year of the Queen's Reign; he dedicated his Book to Sir John Puckering, Knt. Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, in the year 1594. almost 100 years ago. [Page 25] was the occasion of the Fray) to a place there called Little-Ease? and Officer of London which did the Arrest, called Taylor, with Four Officers, to Newgate, where they remained Three Days, and then delivered, not without humble Suit of the Mayor of London, and other their Friends. And the Proceedings of the Commons in this case of Ferrers, in maintaining the Privi­ledges [...]. Hollinsh. Chron. [...] 1584. of their House was not only commended even by King Henry the Eighth himself, but was also con­firmed by divers Reasons, by the Lord Chief Justice Mountague, and assented unto by all the rest of the Judges.

But to return to the Case before us, of the Sheriffs of York, and Others.

It was upon that whole matter Ordered,

That Thompson and Henlow pay the Charges of Wit­nesses, brought up about the Proof of the said Election; and that shall not be discharged from the Serjeant, till they pay their Fees; and Four Gentlemen of the House are to moderate, and set down the Charges in certain.

And it is Ordered, That they shall be committed to the Serjeant till they make their Submission at the Bar, and acknowledg their faults on their Knees, and read a Sub­mission.

As for the Submission to be made at York, it was through great Favour remitted by the House.

To these few Instances (out of several others which might be collected from the Journals of the Commons House) give me leave to superadd the Case of the Borough of Stochbridge, which happened in the last Parliament; and I find it thus set down in their Printed Votes.

8. Mr. Grey reports from the Committee of Priviledges 8. Votes of the H. of Commons, Primo. Will. & Mariae, no. 19. Veneris 15 die Nov. 1689. and Elections, the Case touching the Election of a Mem­ber to serve in this present Parliament, for the Borough of Stockbridge, in the County of Southampton; that there had appeared very undue practices in giving and promising several Sums of Money for procuring Voices at the said Election; whereupon the said Committee had come to Three Resolutions, viz.


1. That William Mountague, Esquire, is not duly Elected a Burgess to serve in this present Parliament, for the said Borough.

2. That William Strode Esquire, is not duly elected a Burgess, to serve in this present Parliament for the said Borough.

3. That the said Election is a void Election.

To all which Resolves, the House agreed.


That Richard Hewes (Bailiff of Stockbridge in the County of Southampton) Page Robinson,—Gate­house, and Samuel Hall of Stockbridge aforesaid, be sent for in Custody of the Serjeant at Arms, attending this House, for giving and taking Bribes at the said Election.


That William Mountague Esquire, be disabled from being Elected a Burgess to serve in this present Parlia­ment, for the said Borough of Stockbridge.

The Question being put, That William Strode, Es­quire, be disabled in like manner, it passed in the Ne­gative.

A Debate arising touching the Disfranchising of the said Borough for ever hereafter, from sending Burges­ses to Parliament: and instead thereof, that Two more Knights of the Shire be chosen for the County of Southampton.


That the Debate be adjourned.

A Petition of Hewes and other Inhabitants of Stock­bridge, in Custody of the Serjeant at Arms, attending Idem no. 29. Mercurii 27 die Nov. 1689. the House, was read; wherein they acknowledge their Offence, in promising several sums of Money for Votes, and other undue practices at the late Election there, and crave Pardon of the House for the same.

And the Petitioners being called in, and severely re­proved by Mr. Speaker for their said Offences, were discharged, paying their Fees.

The next day a Petition of Page Robinson, in Idem, No 30. Custody of the Serjeant at Arms attending this House, was read; wherein he acknowledged his Of­fence in giving Bribes for procuring Voices at the late Election at Stockbridge, and craved the Pardon of the House for it: And he being called in, and severely reproved by Mr. Speaker for his said Offence, was dischar­ged, paying his Fees.

And it was Ordered,

That Mr. Speaker issue his Warrant to the Clerk Idem, No. 44. die Sabbati, 14. Decembris. of the Crown, for a New Writ for electing a Burgess for Stockbridge in the County of Southampton, in the room of Mr. Mountague.

Thus, Sir, you see, though our Parliaments have not yet sufficiently provided for the Regulating Ele­ctions by a General and Publick Law; yet the House of Commons, as an Ancient Right of their very Essence and Being, from which they cannot depart, have still, upon Complaints made to them of foul Practi­ces in getting the Returns of Members to serve in Parliament, that have not been duly chosen, always taken care to inflict suitable Punishments upon the Offenders, to shew their Dislike and Abhorrence of their Crimes.

And, I hope, if it shall be proved, that any no­torious and scandalous Pranks have been played, to get a Party of Men into your House, either by Fraud, or Force, or whatever other unwarrantable Pretence, not allowed by the Laws of this Realm, that shall be ready to foment Differences, create Disagreements K.'s Sp. to both Houses of Parl. 21 March, 1689/90. in your Councels, and disturb, or delay your speedy and unanimous Proceedings upon the necessary Matters before you, for the Peace and Settlement of the Na­tion, you will make it your special Care to summon all such Criminals to your Bar, and upon Conviction, to give them the Justice due to their Demerits; that the Acknowledgement of their Faults, the Repentance for them, and humble Submission to the Righteousness of your Censures, may be as publick in their respe­ctive Counties, Cities, and Burroughs, as their bold Invasions have been upon the Indubitable Rights and Priviledges of the Subject, contrary to the Tenour Mag. Chart. 9 H 3. cap. 9. Spelm. Glossar. i [...]. Magna Charta, fol. 374. of the Great Charter of the Liberties of England, (Augustissimum Anglicarum Libertatum Diploma, & Sacra Anchora, as Sir Henry Spelman justly calls it) which says, That the City of London shall have All [Page 29] the Old Liberties and Customs, which it hath been used to have. Moreover, We will and grant, That ALL OTHER Cities, Burroughs, Towns, and the Barons of the Five Ports, and all other Ports, shall have All their Liberties and Free Cu­stoms.

There is a very useful Treatise lately published, called, Lex Parliamentaria, in the Appendix whereof we read Lex Parliam. pag. 319. this remarkable Note, ‘That the Chancellor cannot ex­amine Returns to Parliament; and the Reason is, because thereby the County may lose the Freedom of their Elections; And the Book says, That by such means the King with his Council might make any Man whom they would, to be of the Parliament-house, against the Great Charter, and the Liberties of England.

Now, Sir, as that can never be too often incul­cated, which ought never to be forgotten, I must beg the favour to re-mind you of one thing, which You and I have several times discoursed of former­ly, because it equally concerns the Ancient Rights of both Lords and Commons, in giving their concur­ring Assents to the Making and Enacting of Statutes, which some Sycophanting Scriblers have in this last Age been industriously labouring to deprive and rob them both of, for the Advance of an Absolute and Despotick Monarchy; And that is,

1. That this Great Charter was not purely and meerly an Emanation of Royal Grace and Bounty, which the People of England could not pretend any Right unto before; but it was a restoring to them such Liberties as had been ravished from them by an usurped and encroached Power, as you may observe by [Page 30] several Expressions in this Charter, viz. Sua Jura, their Rights; Libertates suas, their Liberties, which shews plainly, That they were possessed of them be­fore; and that therefore this was but a Restitution or Confirmation of them; For which (as my L. Coke's words 2 Inst. fol. 77. are) ‘the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Priors, Earls, Barons, Knights, Freeholders, and other the King's Subjects, Citizens, and Burgesses (assem­bled in Parliament) gave unto the King one fif­teenth part of all their Movable Goods; which pro­veth, That as the Fifteenth was granted by Par­liament, so was this Great Charter also granted by Authority of the same.

2. And that this was a 28 E. 3. cap. 1. 36 E. 3. cap. 1. Littleton, sect. 108. 12 E. 4. cap. 7. Rot. Stat. 25 E. 1. m. 38. vid. 2. Instit. 525. Idem, 526. Statute, and made,

1. Per Commune Assent de tut le Roialme en temps le Roy Henry nostre Piere, by the common Assent of all the Realm in the time of King Hen. 3. that is, saith my Lord Coke, by Authority of Parliament. Or,

2. As the Statute of the 15 Edw. 3. more particularly Rot. Parl. 15 E. 3. n. 50. dorso. expresses the constituent Parts of the Makers of it; scilicet, that it was made par Seignieur le Roy, Piers, & la Commune de la terre; by the King, Peers, and Commons of the Land.

I will give you at present no further trouble, but only assure you, That in whatsoever you shall please to command, according to the utmost extent of my Ca­pacity, you shall always find me,

Your most Obedient Servant, &c.

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