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proviso. But upon a remark of the Earl of Bolingbroke, that though the freedom of debate was preserved, members of parliament were by this oath prohibited, by speech or writing out of parliament, from endeavouring any alteration or amendment of the laws, the ministers told the committee, in plain terms, that they intended and designed to prevent caballing and conspiracies against the government. The members of parliament who refused to take the oath, were made liable to a penalty of 5001.
After seventeen days' debate, the bill passed the House of Lords. The most pressing objection to it, during all this discussion, was offered by Lord Halifax, who said, that as no man would ever sleep with open doors, though all the town should be sworn not to rob, so the state gained no security by oaths; and their only effect was, to disturb or exclude some honest, conscientious men, who would never have prejudiced the government. To consider for a moment the terms of this bill, it seems to have been one of the wildest projects ever set on foot by an encroaching power. That a king should at any time violate the personal liberty of his subjects, and make himself odious by acts of violence, shows in him a want of true wisdom as well as of humanity. But that Charles should have submitted to the choiee
his people a law declaring themselves slaves') that he should have exposed to the open discussion of his parliament, dogmas which will not bear examination; and that he should have attempted to bind all his subjects by a general declaration, which would have been forgotten upon the first instance of individual oppression, is indeed astonishing. This weak attempt proves that he did not yet understand even that narrow system of government of which his favourite Davila is the historian, and Catharine de Medicis the most perfect model.
Both parties were afraid of trying their strength upon this bill in the House of Commons. The obstacles it had encountered; the changes it had undergone 5 and, above all, the spirit it had roused in the most tractable of the two houses, appeared to augur ill for the party who favoured it. On the other hand, the strength of the Court and the prevalence of bribes excited great apprehensions in those who opposed it. At this critical moment, the Lords summoned Sir John Fagg, a member or" the lower House, to appear before them, on an appeal brought by Dr. Shirley. Whether thia case arose incidentally, or whether it was the intention of Lord Shaftesbury to make a quarrel between the Houses, it seems to have effectually answered the purpose of arresting the progress
of the Non-resisting Test Bill. On June the 0th, the King was obliged to prorogue the Parliament. Another session took place in the winter, but soon came to an end, in consequence of a renewal of the dispute between the two Houses. The sum of 300,0001. was granted, but appropriated very strictly to the building of ships; being one of the earliest instances in our history, of a regular appropriation of money voted by the Commons. The most remarkable motion of the session, was one made in the House of Lords, for an address to the King to dissolve Parliament. The Duke of York, and a majority of the temporal peers, were for it; but the question was decided in the negative, by the Bench of Bishops voting against * it. From this time the Country party, as well as many good patriots unconnected with them, seem to have wished for a dissolution. The House of Commons had now sate fourteen years, and during that time, had been modelled, in a manner before unknown, to the purposes of the Court. Not less than a third of the members were placemen or pensioners. t Lord Clifford had introduced t, or more probably extended,
f Marvel. See also " A Seasonable Argument £»r a new Parliament." t Temple.
4he practice of buying downright one man after another. Many of the more indigent class trafficked their votes for a dinner at Whitehall, and a gratuity on extraordinary occasions. Others had the expenses of their elections defrayed from the Treasury. And it was common for those who had been chosen on popular grounds, after a few violent speeches, to sell themselves to the Court. Placed beyond the fear of the people, by the long continuance of the Parliament, they were encouraged in the hope of riches and promotion, by the increasing corruption of the government. Nor was it only from the venal that the danger to liberty proceeded. The House consisted in a great part of the old parties of Cavalier and Roundhead. The former, to use a quaint expression of the time, "being almost past their vice, were become damnable godly * and the latter dreaded nothing so much as religious persecution. The Court emissaries playing upon these passions, promised alternately to the one party a bill against fanatics, and to the other freedom for Dissenters; by which means they persuaded the former to be active in the cause of royalty, and the latter to be passive in the defence of free
* Tracts. Letter signed T. E. (by Lord Shaftesbury.)
tlom. But the nation had almost forgotten these distinctions, and had been roused from the torpor which succeeded the Restoration, by the unpatriotic conduct of the King and his brother. A course of life insulting to the moral as well as the political feelings of his people had not a little shaken their love for the reigning sovereign ; but an attachment to foreign interests, and the profession of an odious religion, had excited the strongest aversion to the presumptive successor to* the throne. In the hope of gathering some advantage from this disposition, the country party did not fail to urge a dissolution in the next session of Parliament: but their efforts, as we shall soon see, produced no favourable effect. .'
February, The King, on his side, endeavoured 1676. t0 dispense with parliaments altogether. He made a new treaty with the King of France, which contained the usual stipulations of neutrality on the one hand, and pension on the other. At this time he was so utterly abandoned by his subjects, that he did not dare to trust even his ministers with his engagements. He wrote the treaty with his own hand, and confided himself entirely to no one but Lauderdale. * The French minister wrote to his master,