The nation, my lords, in the mean time, justly applies for redress to the power of the legislature, and to its wisdom for methods of procuring it by law. The commons have complied with their importunities, and propose to your lordships the bill before you, a bill for making a publick inquiry possible, and for bringing a minister within reach of the law.
That for himself individually he made no terms: that he would found his hope in nothing else but in his innocence. That provision should be made for the soldiers, as provision had been made by the senate, once for the commons, a second time for the legions, so that the secession should not be visited with punishment."
But the laws of England are under the guardianship of upright and learned judges, and of a gracious monarch." "And of a House of Commons," interrupted Bridgenorth, "no longer doting upon restored monarchy, but awakened, as with a peal of thunder, to the perilous state of our religion, and of our freedom.
A committee was immediately appointed to search for precedents, and ascertain if such a proceeding was justified by Parliamentary history. The result of this investigation was anxiously awaited both by the Commons and the nation.
In a luminous and powerfully written paper he exposed the absurdity of the expedients which the House of Commons had devised. To limit the amount of stock which might stand in a single name would, he said, be most unreasonable.
The lords made no objection to this last demand; but they rejected the proposal of a committee consisting of both houses, alleging that the commons were parties, and had no title to sit in equality with the judges, or to settle matters relating to the trial; that this was a demand contrary to the principles of law and rules of justice, and never practised in any court or nation.
War, moreover, required extra supplies in unprecedented amounts, and they took the form of national taxes, voted by the House of Commons, which supplemented and then supplanted the feudal aids as the mainstay of royal finance. Control of these supplies brought the House of Commons into constitutional prominence.
An inquiry of this nature, so managed, did not much redound to the honour of such an august assembly. The commons passed a bill prohibiting all commerce with Sweden, a branch of trade which was of the utmost consequence to the English merchants.
Beware of temptation, saith the Scripture, and so saith my interest. I suppose you have read the king's speech. He makes no mention of his rebellious subjects in America, or of any allies, and is resolved to prosecute the war. The debates in the House of Lords, as well as Commons, on the motion for an address of thanks, were very warm.