Picture of Celia Fiennes

Celia Fiennes

places mentioned

London, part 4

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To go on the Parliament which in Westminster Hall has appartments, the one for ye house of Lords and Called the Upper House, where all the Lords which are not papists and wch are of age do sitt in their order on v benches Covered with scarlet cloth, the Bishops Likewise sitt as peers of the realme and have voices in all Causes, but in bloud the sanguinary Laws and decision there on its said they may sitt, but they from their order in the Church alwayes go out, but they first make their claime that they might continue, but all other of ye Lords if absent can give their proxy to another Lord and desire him to give his voice in matters debateable in his absence, and any such Lord Chuses another that he knows to be of his own sentiments, or should give him account at any case he should differ that may have the absent Lords real Consent, which has happened that a Lord has given his own voice one way and the proxy voice another as the absent Lord shall direct, but this is seldome and this is permitted because sickness or Extraordinary buissness of their own, the Kings, or the peoples, may require his absence. Now the Lords wch are peeres of the realme are born Councellors to the King and are Looked on as such, its true tho' at all tymes they may and should give the King their advice yet ye King has power and do make Choice of a privy Councill, which consist of Lords temporall and spirituall, wch are Bishops, and also out of some of ye Commons of England which are the Gentry. In this house of Lords the judges as I said before sitts but have noe vote. The Lord Chancellor or Keeper of the Seale sitts and is speaker to that house, but if he be noe peer which sometymes happens, and is at this tyme in Right Lord keeper of the Seale, then I say he has no voice in any matter and serves them only as their servant or officer to put questions to Count their voice on their dividing on a matter, to make a speech to them from ye King, and to present anythmg to ye King, and he sitts on a wool-pack to just under the throne where the king sitts when there which is seldome but to pass bills. On each side of the throne is two stooles, yt on the Right hand is for the Prince of Wales if any is, that on the Left to the first Duke prince of the blood royal or kings brother that is heir more remote. Behind the throne is a place for the noblemens sonns minors to be, to give them opportunity to heare and instruct them in the Laws of England. In the middle of the roome is tables wth bookes and records, and there sitts the secretarys of state which are two, these with some under them take the minutes of what is debated and resolved. The Lords do form Law agreable to the fundamentall Laws in which the judges advise them. They thus form a bill which being in all poynts examined, all objections answered, and being well amended and passed three tymes, being read and agreed, is Carryed down to the Lower house which Consists of the Commons of England Chosen by a precept from the Crown to all the Sherriffs of the Countys to Chuse amongst themselves two of Each Corporation or Burrough, and two for each County which are Called knights of ye shire, to represent them in this assembly. All that are free-holders of a County has a voice to Choose.

The Corporations and Burroughs Chuse by their freemen also, but because of the peculiar Customs and priviledges in each place it makes some variation. Those that have most of voices which are Legal to Chuse, the Bailiff or major of the place or sherriffs return up to the Crown office, from whence the precept Came, the Name of such persons so Chosen to sitt in the parliament. This was an Excellent Constitution and order when kept to its order that none were Chosen but the Gentlemen of the shire or town Living there, or Else the Chiefe of their Corporation that Lived there, by wch meanes they were fully instructed what was for the weale and good of Each place they serv'd for, and so Could promote designes for their advantage and trade and represent their Grievances to be redress'd, they also know the strength and riches of the nation and soe Could with a more Equal hand Lay ye taxes on all answerable to their ability; but instead of this the nation is so Corrupted that what with hopes of prefferrment at Court or being skreen'd by their priviledges from paying their debts, which is thus: dureing the sessions or forty dayes before or after, such as are parliament men Cannot be arrested or troubled for money they owe, ye reason at first was well grounded that these persons were known to be, and in Case a troublesome person had money due and had been delay'd by some Extraordinary Cause that this troublesome person might find such a one at the parliament house might Lay him in prison and so hinder ye buissness of the nation. But this is abused to a great prejudice of the subject, men run out of their Estates strive to get into the Parliament to be skreen'd from their Creditors; and how Can those that are worth Little or nothing be good disposers of the kingdom treasure or priviledges, or stand up for them, but by this there is such bribeing by debauching by drinke and giving them mony, yt Instead of the parliament men which use to be Chosen to be the Countrys representatives and servants, to whome they allowed soe much a day for their expences in London from their homes while attending the parliament, that now those that would be parliament men spend prodigious summs of money to be Chosen. Some to serve for knights of ye shire have spent 1000 and 1500lb and for Corporation and Burroughs in proportion, so yt they Come in with design to be bribed by the Court or any body yt has any buisness before them, yt so they may be reemburz'd and may gaine more-some place at Least they Expect and these Care Little for ye good of ye nation, being for the most part perfect strangers to the places for whome they serve, and consequently to all their Circumstances and so can appeare for none of them to their advantage, indeed its their own gaine they mainly aime and pursue, for they have in their power to form good Laws suiteable to the fundamentall and Explanatory of such with additionalls to them, tending to the enlargeing as well as secureing their priviledges. Such Laws being brought in manner of a bill is read three tymes three severall dayes, so as all the members might or should have tyme to heare debate, consider and amend it, and Every member of this house of Commons that are so chosen and have met and take the oathes required of allegiance, they Come up to the house of Lords where ye King meetes them and desires them to Chuse a speaker for themselves out of their own number, which they do and Come and present him to the King for his approbation, wch done the King makes them a speech and tells them what is requisite to be done relateing to the Crown, to fforreign things if any warre or any breach of peace any injury from thence, what is necessary to be done thereon, if any want of money which they only Can supply, the reasons of its wants, his promise well and faithfully to dispose it, he exhorts them to rectifye disorders in practice and soe dismisses them. This speaker of theirs is the Kings officer Dureing his being speaker and has a sallery and must keep a Great table. The king gives him one thousand pound presently to fitt him in his Equipage, he always goes in Coach or a foote haveing a v mace carry'd before him, he has the advantage of all bills brought into the house a Certainty for Each, he has the advantage of all the votes printed, to sell them, he sitts in a Chaire above all the rest of the House to give him advantage to see or heare any member that speakes. He is to put all Questions' to Count the voices of noes and yeas on ye division of the house. There are many Committees in this house as well as in the Lords House, appoynted by the whole to Inspect severall buissness, and to form bills on such buissness to be brought in to the house. If it be a matter of great Consequence there may be a Committee of the whole house which is only thus, ye speaker Leaves his Chaire and they resolve themselves into such a Committee and debate matters, and for that tyme Choose a Chairman for the Committee. Then the speaker reasumes the Chaire and this Chaireman of ye Committee reports the debate of yt Committee to the Speaker and whole House. When there is a full house, which may be never was, there is 500 as I said before. When they have pass'd a bill thrice through the house with approbation they send it up to the Lords, and if they pass it three tymes also without amendment then it is jnGross'd, haveing been pass'd the two states, and so Lyes ready to pass the Last which is the Kings Consent. But if either the bills sent down by the Lords are amended by ye Comt.ons, and when brought up to the Lords againe and they Like not those amendments then they Cast out the bill; so Likewise any bill sent up by the Commons for the Lords assent in Case they make amendments which ye Comt.ons Like not then they Cast out their bill; but if Each other agree to the amendments or pass. the bills without amendment through both houses then they are Engross'd and preparved for the Royal assent, the third state of our government wch is in this manner. The King sends to ye house of Lords to attend him in their own house, with their Robes wch are Scarlet Cloth with Earmine and Rows of Earmine wth gold galloone on Each row, the rows are Encreassed to Each dignity and here ye bishops weare robes wch are scarlet also, but they have about their neck a Large Cape wch hangs to their waste all round of a ffurr that Lookes Like Lambskinns, it hangs Like the Capes of the Cloakes ye shepheards weare in the open plaine downes. The King enters; or the Queen as now it is-but I saw King William pass bills in his Royal Robes of Purple Lined Earmine wth rows of Earmine and the crown on his head which was the Crown I spake of that had great pearles on the cross and saphires Rubies and Emeraulds-the Scepter in their hand- the Usher of the Black Rod is sent to the House of Comt.ons to attend the King in the House of Lords which they do, with their Speaker that brings up such bills wch are so prepared and holds them in his hand, one by one presenting them to the King, who touches them with the scepter and sayes, " je le veux bieu '' and so to all of them one by one, wch done if there be any thing necessary to be told them, the king either speakes to them or Else orders the Lord Chancellour or Lord Keeper to acquaint them of any thing in the Kings name if its the Kings pleasure to prorogue ym for a few dayes weekes or months. Then that putts an End to that session till the tyme prefix'd and at that tyme they must meete againe without summons, and if they are not to meete so soone, ye king Issues out a proclaimation yt its his pleasure ye parliament should be prorogued so much Longer. These prorogations allwayes puts an end to all debates and all bills which are not ffinished and brought the king to pass, so that at their meeteing againe they must begin the things they would have or were about the Last tyme anew. This prorogation is in the kings power and is often done for ten dayes only to put a stop to heares and debates in the houses, and also to put an end to something that is not Lik'd by ye government. True Indeed they may begin ye same things at their next meeteing, but if it be for the great and absolute service of the nation they may, but its contrived in another method so as not openly to Confront our governours, tho' too often we have seen it in our dayes against our Glorious truly great King William whose wisdom and Compassion for our good pass'd it by and forgave it. Now in some Cases the King may and does call the Parliament by a proclaimation to sitt before the tyme of the prorogation be Expired which takes it off. The parliament does often adjourn themselves, as every night so sometymes for a weeke, but still the parliament is Look'd on as in sitting and so buisness is not jnterrupted but goes on from day to day as they appoint it. The king may also adjourn them and the two Houses may be adjourned together, but sometymes they may adjourn seperately, for one may adjourn themselves and ye other Continue to act within themselves. Its also in the Kings power to dissolve ye parliament wch puts a finall End to all their buisness which was not ffinished and brought to the King to pass, it also disperses the members of ye House of Commons to be noe more representatives of ye nation till another parliament be summon'd and ye nation make new Choices, which sometymes and in some places falls on the old members. It is in the Kings prerogative thus to Call and disolve parliaments, to declare warre or peace and making alliances, but ye Kings ought not nor do rightly undertake any such thing but by the advice of his standing Privy Councill, which I have spoken before, and so his proclaimations allwayes runs by and with the advice of his Privy Councill he does so and so, to which he joyns ye great Councill of the nation wch is his two Houses of Parliament, Lords spiritual and temporall and Commons of England, when great matters are in agitation as yt of peace or warre, wch is in ye Constitution of the government, and strengthened by this that the. sinnews of warre is in the people, for without them no money is to be had; they give the taxes and subsidies for such expences, nay ye very revenue is given by them to the King or the Queen only dureing the then prince's Life and must be asked of them that succeed at the death of their predecessors, at the death of such that is in the throne. Formerly the Parliament of Course was dissolved, all offices even to a justice of peace was vacant, but our wise King William contriveing only our good not only Laid a scheme which if be followed will carry on all the Confederacys and designes against the Common Enemy of mankind, but also as farre as he could to secure our peace wch was by obtaining an Act of Parliamt that ye parliament in being when ye King died or Else the parliament but just then dissolv'd by the King, after he dies should assemble together to take care of the government and to act under ye next prince for six months, and till that tyme all offices should remain as they were unless the next heir should before yt full tyme were Expired should make any Change of places. This thing made the Loss of his death Less felt immediately and our Queen Ann found a quiet Easye ascention into the throne. there was also at the same tyme an Act to settle the succession in the protestant Line, and just before our heroe resign'd his Life crown and throne he pass'd an Act to secure us more firmly against any popish successour or pretended heirs to the Crown, by an abjuration oath to be taken by all subjects, of any prince thats a papist, wch Confirms the Acts of Parliamt in years past which made a papist prince unable to be king or queen of England, because a papest. So this Engages the subjects to abjure all such or any of their abbettors or pretenders. This was a great pleasure to our dying king to Leave us with all the Security possible to Enjoy what he Came to save us in, and give us and what he had fought to obtaine for us, Liberty in religion and priviledges. I pray God we do not by our provokeing sinns move his anger not only to take from us our Benefactor and deliverer but also our said valuable Blessings and priviledges, the Gospel Light and being a free nation.

I should have said when the king Comes in his robes to the Parliament and all the Lords have theirs, so if there be any Prince of Wales he is also in his and weares his Prince of Wales Cap with a branch of diamonds in forme of a plume of feathers. He sitts in the house of Lords often -he may allwayes-to hear debates and to vote and he does present them to the king any of their addresses they desire, which he is attended with some of the Lords which are the privy Councellors; they bring back the kings answere. The Like is observ'd by the House of Commons, if they have any address or any petition to the king they desire some of their members which are of the Privy Councill to move ye King when the House shall attend him or her, which they knowing do it and their Speaker is their mouth. So when they would have a Conferrence with ye House of Lords they send to them to meete them in ye painted Chamber or Lobby of their house; so does the Lords send to ye Commons when they would have a Conferrence with them. These things are so well adjusted and so for the Common good that if Rightly maintain'd in their proper places would be a happy Constitution. All Acts of Parliament so pass'd are printed, but ye records of them are kept in the journalls of ye Parliament by the Clerke of ye Parliament. To him are added in the House of Commons also scribes or secretaryes which record and take minutes also. Now it is on these Laws that all Causes are tryed, for there are Laws made of all sorts both what relates to religious matters as well as humaine; true indeed as to points of religion for Rectifying matters as to the orders and Church government, that is debated and agreed by a Convocation, which is allwayes summoned at ye same tyme a parliament is Chosen, which Consists of two houses, also the Bishops and deanes, and off the Inferior Clergy, and is managed by way of debates and disputation which have a moderatour and prolocutors. Here they endeavour to reforme any abuse in the Church, any deffect in their Cannon Laws, and to Explaine those Laws and if they should find such, as in our religion not agreable to ye word of God, they form it into a bill or petition which is presented the King in way of an address, he being owned as head and supreame under Christ over these Churches and realmes. So this is to request his Care of it which ye King does by Laying it before ye Houses of Parliament who Enacts Laws to secure our religion, and reforme evil both in Doctrine and practise by their Acts Duely pass'd. As I said before the arch-Bishop's Chiefe of this convocation house.

Celia Fiennes, Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary (London: Field and Tuer, The Leadenhall Press, 1888)

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