« EdellinenJatka »
CINCE it hath pleased God and the king to begin 0 to revive and restore to us our ancient right of frequent parliaments, it will greatly concern us, as to our present interest, and therein the future happiness of our pofterity, to act at this time with all the wisdom, caution, and integrity we can. For besides that it is our own business, and that if, by a neglect of this singular opportunity, we defert ourselves, and forsake our own mercies, we must expect to be left of God, and good men too. It may be there has never happened, not only in the memory of the living, but in the records of the dead, so odd and so strange a conjuncture as this we are under. It is made up of so many unusual and important circumstances (all affecting us to the very heart) that whether we regard the long. sitting of the late parliament, or its abrupt and most unexpected diffolution, or the prorogation of the last, and its surprising diffolution, or the strong jea. lousies of the people, and that universal agitation that is now upon the spirit of the nation, and the reasons and motives thereof (so far as we can reach them) Q2
there there seems never to have been a time, wherein this kingdom ought to shew itself more serious and diligent in the business of its own safety.
To be plain with you, - All is at stake :' and therefore I must tell you, that the work of this parliament is,
First, To pursue the discovery and punishment of the plot : for that has been the old snake in the grass, the Trojan horse, with an army in the belly of it.
Secondly, To remove, and bring to justice, those evil counsellors, and corrupt and arbitrary minifters of state, that have been so industrious to give the king wrong measures, to turn things out of their ancient and legal channel of administration, and alienate his affections from his people.
Thirdly, To detect and punish the pensioners of the former parliament, in the face of the kingdom: this breach of trust being treason against the fundamental constitution of our government. .
Fourthly, To secure to us the execution of our ancient laws by new ones; and, among the rest, such as relate to frequent parliaments, the only true check upon arbitrary ministers, and therefore feared, hated, and opposed by them. .
Fifthly, That we be secured from popery and Nao very, and that Protestant Diffenters be eased.
Sixthly, That, in case this be done, the king be released from his burdensome debts to the nation, and eased in the business of his revenue. And let me be free with you, if you intend to save poor England, you must take this general measure, viz. «To « guide and fix your choice upon men, that you have • reason to believe are well-affected, able, and bold, « to serve the country in these respects.
The words of the writ, (at least the import of them) are, « To chuse wise men, fearing God, and
hating covetousness :' and what to do? says the fame writ, « To advise the king of the weighty matrters of the kingdom.' Let us not then play the fools or knaves, to neglect or betray the common in
terest terest of our country by a base election : let neither fear, flattery, nor gain bias us. We must not make our publick choice the recompence of private favours from our neighbours ; they must excuse us for that: the weight of the matter will very well bear it. This is our inheritance, all depends upon it: men do not use to lend their wives, or give their children, to satisfy personal kindnesses; nor must we make a swop of our birth-right, and that of our pofterity too) for a mess of pottage, a feast, or a drinking-bout; there can be no proportion here: and therefore none must take it ill, that we use our freedom about that, which, in its constitution, is the great bulwark of all our ancient English liberties. Truly, our not considering what it is to chuse a parliament, and how much all is upon the hazard in it, may, at last, lose us fatally by our own choice. For I must needs tell you, if we miscarry, it will be our own fault; we have nobody else to blame : for such is the happiness of our constitution, that we cannot well be destroyed, but by our. Selves: and what man in his wits would sacrifice his throat to his own hands?
We, the commons of England, are a great part of the fundamental government of it; and three rights are so peculiar and inherent to us, that if we will not throw them away for fear or favour, for meat and drink, or those other little present profits that ill men offer to tempt us with, they cannot be altered or abrogated. And this I was willing to give you a brief hint of, that you may know what sort of creatures you are, and what your power is; lest, through ignorance of your own strength and authority, you turn slaves to the humours of those, that properly and truly are but your servants, and ought to be used so.
The first of these three fundamentals is property, that is, right and title to your own lives, liberties, and « estates :' in this, every man is a sort of little sovereign to himself: no man has power over his perfon, to imprison or hurt it, or over his estate, to invade or usurp it: only your own transgression of the laws,
(and those of your own making too) lays you open to loss; which is but the punishment due to your offences, and this but in proportion to the fault committed. So that the power of England is a legal power, which truly merits the name of government. That which is not legal, is a tyranny, and not properly a government. Now the law is umpire between king, lords, and commons, and the right and property is one in kind through all degrees and qualities in the kingdom: mark that.
The second fundamental, that is your birthright and inheritance, is legisation, or the power of inaking laws: "No law can be made or abrogated in England (without you.' Before Henry the Third's time, your ancestors, the freemen of England, met in their own Derfons; but their numbers much increasing, the vastness of them, and the confusion that must needs attend them, making such assemblies not practicable for bufiness, this way of representatives was first pitched upon as an expedient, both to maintain the common right, and to avoid the confusion of those mighty numbers. So that now, as well as then, "No law < can be made, no money levied, nor a penny legally o demanded (even to defray the charges of the go(vernment) without your own consent :' than which, tell me, what can be freer, or what more secure to any people?
Your third great fundamental right and privilege is executive, and holds proportion with the other two, in order to complete both your freedom and security, and that is, 'Your share in the judicatory power, in ( the execution and application of those laws that you ç agree to be made.' Insomuch as no man, according to the ancient laws of this realm, can be adjudged in matter of life, liberty, or estate, but it must be by the judgment of his peers, that is, twelve men of the neighbourhood, commonly called a JURY; though this hath been infringed by two acts, made in the late long parliament, one against the Quakers in particular, and the other against Dissenters in general, called,
r An act against seditious conventicles,' where persons are adjudged offenders, and punishable without a jury; which, it is hoped, this ensuing parliament will think fit in their wisdom to repeal, though with less seve. rity, than one of the same nature (as to punishing men without juries) was by Henry the Eighth, who, for executing of it, hanged Empson and Dudley.
Consider with yourselves, that there is nothing more your interest, than for you to understand your right in the government, and to be constantly jealous over it ; for your well-being depends upon its preservation.
In all ages there have been ill men; and we, to be sure, are not without them now; such as, being conscious to themselves of ill things, and dare not stand a parliament, would put a final dissolution upon the very constitution itself, to be safe, that so we might never see one another..
But this being a task too hard for them to compass, their next expedient is, to make them for their turn, by directing and governing the elections; and herein they are very artificial, and too often successful: which indeed is worse for us than if we had none. For thus the conftitution of parliaments may be destroyed by parliaments, and we, who by law are free, may hereby come to be made Naves by law. If then you are free, and resolve to be so, if you have any regard to God's Providence, in giving you a claim to so excellent a conftitution, if you would not void your own rights, nor lay a foundation of vassalage to your unborn followers, the poor posterity of your loins, for whom God and nature, and the constitution of the govern- . ment, have made you trustees, then seriously weigh these following particulars.
I. In your present election, receive no man's gift, or bribe, to chuse him; but be assured, that he will be false to you, that basely tempts you to be false to your country, yourselves, and your children, How can you hope to see God with peace, that turn mercenaries in a matter, on which depends the well-being of an whole kingdom, for present and future times?