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"you make the laws of the land your rule, «* because I am resolved they shall be mine."
Mr. "Williams was chosen Speaker, and made a speech to the King, in a tone of firmness unusual on such occasions. The King, however, did not choose to follow the precedent he had made in the case of Mr. Seymour.
The first business in the House of Commons was a motion to print the votes. This had been done for the first time in the last Parliament, and as it might have some influence on the public, the motion was opposed by Secretary Jenkins, as " a sort of appeal to the people." Colonel Mildmay, in answering him, seems to have foreseen the fate of the Parliament; for he remarked, it had been usual for the Court to prorogue or dissolve with a declaration against them, and, therefore, it was fit their acts should be publicly known. The motion was agreed to. After the House had desired a conference with the Lords on the subject of the 'Bill passed in the late Parliament, to repeal the 35th of Elizabeth, Sir Nicholas Catew brought forward the Exclusion Bill; In order to prevent any charge of precipitation, and to give time for the Court to propose expedients, the House put off the debate respecting it. The next vote is one deserving both of attention and imitation: it was a vote of thanks to "many counties, cities, and boroughs," who had elected their representatives free of expense.
It is the misfortune of times like those of which I am treating, that the outcasts of society, by working on the passions of contending parties, become the stipendiaries, the idols, and almost the ruin of a nation. Oates and Dangerfield are melancholy instances of this remark. Another is now to be recorded. Fitzharris, an Irish Papist, had endeavoured to gain importance at Court, through the means of the Duchess of Portsmouth, and her woman, Mrs. Wall, by bringing information of the designs of the opposite party. He had introduced Lord Howard to the King, (with what intention is still a mystery,) and for that or other services had received 2501.
Happening after this to meet with one Everard, who had been with him in the service of the French King, but had afterwards become connected with the Opposition, he proposed to him to write a libel against the King and the Duke. Everard seemingly consented, but went immediately to his own friends, and brought one of them, whom 'he hid in a closet. Everard then read the libel, to which Fitzharris added some violent passages against the King; as, *« that the Parliament could depose a Popish possessor as well as a Popish successor." And being told by Everard the book was treasonable, he said, the more treason, the better. What use he intended to make of it, whether to hide it in the pockets of the Whig leaders, or to take it directly to the King, is uncertain.' The former was reported as a plan in agitation; and Lady Russell, in a letter to her husband at this time, bids him look to his pockets.
The intentions of Fitzharris, however, whatever they may have been, were frustrated by Sir W. Waller, who being concealed at a second conference he held with Everard, laid the whole matter before the King. Fitzharris was imprisoned in Newgate, and then began to look for safety to the opposite party. He told Sheriff Cornish, that he knew much of the Popish plot. Cornish, with great judgment, immediately told the whole story to the King. The King owned that he had given money to Fitzharris, and that, for three months before, he had been promised by him information of a plot concerning his government and life. The secretaries of state were sent to take his examination, which was nothing more than a tissue of fictions about the Popish plot. To give his discoveries more air, he sent for Sir R. Clayton and Sir George Treby, before whom he swore to the same story. He now became a valuable witness in the eyes of the Opposition, and a worthless spy in the opinion of the Court. He was removed to the Tower, and an order given to the Attorney-General to prosecute him at law.
Sir W.Waller took the first opportunity of bringing the subject before the House of Commons. The Whigs imagined, that if the life of Fitzharris were spared, he would make important discoveries, not only concerning the Popish plot, but relating to some persons belonging to the Court itself, who, they imagined, had engaged him to put his treasonable paper into the pockets of the Opposition members. In order to save him from prosecution, they voted he should be impeached. But, upon an argument of Lord Nottingham's, that the Lords had, in the reign of Edward the Third, made an order against the trial of any commoner by them, the House of Lords refused to receive the impeachment. This determination was voted by the Commons to be a denial of justice; and for any inferior court to proceed against Fitzharris, was resolved to be an high breach of the privilege of Parliament. In order to relate this affair succinctly, I have somewhat broken the order of time.
The delay in bringing forward the Bill of Exclusion, has been attributed to a desire to see the effect of a proposal made by Lord Shaftesbury to the King. It is pretended, that that in a private audience, he told the King he had received an anonymous letter, pointing out a method of quieting the disturbances of the nation, without the Exclusion Bill; which, when explained, consisted in settling the crown on the Duke of Monmouth. The King answered him, with surprise and indignation, that such a measure was against law, and his own conscience. *
Whatever foundation there may be for this anecdote, Sir R. Clayton moved, on the 26th March, that the Exclusion Bill be brought in. The motion was J seconded by Lord Russell. They both declared they had received addresses in its favour from their constituents. In the course of the debate, Sir William Pulteney, and Mr. Booth, representatives of Westminster, and Cheshire, made a similar declaration. On this day, the expedient hinted at by the King was explained by Sir John Ernly. It was to give to the Duke the title of King, and to his daughter the power of Regent. The Duke was to be banished 500 miles from England. Sir Thomas Littleton spoke at length in favour of this plan. He had no doubt that the people would assemble under the shelter of the law,
* North. Examen. p. 123, 124.