X. Speechmaking and Debate

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Speeches, like legislation and petitions, were the stuff of parliaments. Indeed the very word Parliament, deriving as it does from the French verb ‘parler’, announced that England’s representative assembly was first and foremost a forum for debate. However, since there was no equivalent of Hansard in the early seventeenth century, our knowledge of what was said there is necessarily imperfect. We are the prisoners of sources which vary both in their quality and completeness. It seems highly likely, as Conrad Russell observed, that ‘even on the best-reported days’ no more ‘than a quarter of the words spoken in the Commons are preserved’.1

What has come down to us are the official Journal, numerous diary accounts and copies of individual speeches produced for distribution. Each of these types of sources, though valuable, is fraught with hidden dangers. In the Journal speeches and debates were generally recorded only in outline, if at all, as it was the prime function of the clerk to record the resolutions of the House and the progress of bills, not the content of individual speeches. Indeed, from 1624 the clerk was urged to avoid creating a formal record of debate in case the king or his ministers used the words recorded in the Journal as grounds for punishing individual Members.2 On the whole the diaries are fuller than the Journal, but the survival of these unofficial accounts is patchy, being better for the 1620s than for the earlier period, and some diarists were better than others at taking down what was said, either because they were more adept than their colleagues or simply better placed to hear the words spoken. Moreover, while some surviving accounts were certainly penned in the House, others were clearly written up later or may have been extended or improved. Take, for instance, Sir James Whitelocke’s famous speech on impositions, delivered in grand committee on 2 July 1610 and printed in 1641. In the published version Whitelocke warned that if the power to impose were ‘quietly settled in our kings’ the latter would have little further use for parliaments,3 yet this striking observation is entirely absent from accounts of Whitelocke’s speech jotted down at the time.4 In a small number of cases, a particular record of words spoken in the Commons may be entirely specious. A speech supposedly delivered by Sir Edward Cecil at the start of the 1621 Parliament and printed soon after appears to have been a complete fabrication.5

Since we can never be absolutely sure what was said, John Morrill has proposed that the words imputed to Members should be paraphrased rather than quoted.6 This is understandable as it is entirely logical, but paraphrases have a tendency to eliminate the details that an individual diarist considered important. Besides, as Chris Kyle has observed, ‘if we do not trust historians to read all the diaries and select the most accurate account, why should we trust their own paraphrases?’7 It is important, as Kyle notes, not to exaggerate the problem. While no two versions of a speech are ever quite the same, it is striking, as Russell observed, how often they agree in their essentials.8

The obligation to speak

Writing in 1571, John Hooker, the author of a celebrated treatise on parliamentary procedure, declared that every Member of the Commons should be ‘of such audacity as both can and will boldly utter and speak his mind according to his duty, and as occasion shall serve, for no man ought to be silent or dumb in that House, but according to his talent he must and ought to speak in the furtherance of the king and commonwealth’.9 Contemplating a Parliament in 1603, the corporation of Shrewsbury resolved that the town’s representatives should be ‘able to speak in that place as occasion may require’.10 The view that Members were under an obligation to speak was widely shared in the early seventeenth century. Thomas Damet told the Commons in 1601 that his ‘duty’ to his sovereign and constituents ‘makes me bold to crave your patience’. Likewise Sir Robert Phelips considered it his ‘duty’ to participate in the Palatinate debate of November 1621. Later that same month Sir Edward Coke, on hearing James claim that the Commons was indebted to the king for its privileges, announced that ‘silence would smite my conscience’.11

A Member whose expertise qualified him to speak was naturally expected to do so. After hearing William Noye allude to events described in some fifteenth century manuscripts, Robert Bowyer, the keeper of the records in the Tower, declared in March 1606 that ‘I am in some sort tied by special duty to declare somewhat touching the last gentleman’s speech’.12 Likewise a Member who had previously introduced a matter to the House was expected to contribute to debate. When the Commons turned in November 1621 to consider the promises made in its Protestation five months earlier, Sir James Perrot, at whose suggestion the Protestation had been drafted, declared that ‘he thinketh himself bound to speak his opinion and conscience in this business’.13 Remaining silent was acceptable only if the subject under discussion lay outside a Member’s range of expertise. In March 1607 Dudley Carleton explained that he had kept quiet while the implications for the English legal system of the proposed Union were debated by the lawyer-Members because, when it came to matters of law, he was ‘a man in that kind merely unlearned’.14 In March 1593 Sir Robert Cecil ‘promised himself silence’ when the bill concerning retailing was read, ‘for it spake of trades wherein he had no skill’. Only after he understood the issues raised by the bill more clearly did he feel able to contribute.15

As an elected official, a Member was also naturally expected to speak on behalf of his constituents. ‘We must lay down the respects of our own persons’, declared William Hakewill in December 1601, ‘and put on others and their affections … for they speak by us’.16 Addressing the Commons in March 1604, Sir Edward Montagu declared that he would ‘rather submit myself to your wise censures, and crave your patience, than to be silent in matters so straitly enjoined me by the county for which I serve’.17 The borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed instructed its Members in 1628 to ‘speak yourselves’ if anything prejudicial to the town was proposed in the Commons.18 Those who failed to speak up on behalf of their constituents ran the risk of attracting disapproval. In November 1601 Sir Roger Owen upbraided Shrewsbury’s Members for ‘neglect [of] their duties in not speaking’ after the discussion turned to the misconduct of Shrewsbury’s bailiffs.19 During the mid 1620s the borough of Rye was so unimpressed with the lame excuses offered by John Angell for failing to introduce a bill transferring control of Dungeness lighthouse to itself that it never returned him again.20 A Member thought incapable of addressing the House was the object of contempt. Sir Richard Gargrave, who sat between 1606 and 1610 but never uttered a syllable, was cruelly lampooned by some of his colleagues in the Parliament Fart poem of 1607 for verbal incompetence: ‘Then said Sir Richard Gargrave by and by / this gentleman’s arse speaks better than I’.21

Despite the general obligation to speak, the House sometimes fell quiet, its Members uncertain how to proceed or too angry to continue. On the morning of 5 December 1621, for instance, having received the king’s message ordering it to desist from further discussion of the prince’s marriage, the Commons fell into ‘a long silence’ before anyone dared to speak.22 In mid May 1626, after learning that Sir Dudley Digges and Sir John Eliot had been arrested, the House descended into a ‘long silence’. When the Speaker stood up to invite debate, there were loud calls for him to ‘sit down’.23 On a handful of occasions an angry Commons abandoned its discussions entirely. On 29 May 1621, for instance, after it was learned that the king remained determined to bring the session to a close on 4 June, passions ran so high that Members rose early.24

Just as Members were not normally expected to remain silent, neither were they expected to discourage others from speaking. In February 1629 the chancellor of the duchy, Sir Humphrey May, rounded on Sir John Eliot for finding fault with Secretary of State Sir John Coke at every turn: ‘If you be too quick to except against the ministers of His Majesty that serve His Majesty and this House, it will discourage and stop our mouths, whose service you daily command’.25 Nevertheless, it was not unknown for Members to attempt to silence one another through intimidation. When the 24-year-old Arthur Pyne, sitting in his first Parliament, attempted to deliver his maiden speech in May 1624 he was met with a withering response from another young novice, George Smyth, who declared somewhat hypocritically that ‘it did better become young men to hear than speak’. Reduced to silence, Pyne is not recorded as having spoken another word, despite sitting again in 1625.26

Although Members were obliged to speak whenever possible, some were terrified at the prospect of having to address the House. In December 1601 Zachariah Lok, who represented Southwark, was so overcome with nerves that he shook ‘for very fear’, and, after standing for some time, had to sit down.27 Nervousness may explain why in 1603 Edward Reynolds, though wishing to be elected to Parliament, desired ‘to be only a spectator, not a speaker’.28 Even those used to speaking outside Parliament may have found the Commons so intimidating that they never plucked up the courage to address the House. Rowland Pugh, who represented Cardigan Boroughs in 1624 and 1625, was noted by various Welsh poets for his eloquence in public speaking and for having ‘[y] maint iawn i’r Parliament’ [the right capacity for the Parliament],29 but so far as is known he never contributed to Commons’ debates. Others used to speaking in the chamber may have worried about growing rusty in the interim between one Parliament and another. ‘It is so long since I spake in a Parliament’, remarked the parliamentary veteran Sir Thomas Jermyn in 1628, ‘that I have almost forgotten it’.30

Those capable of addressing the Commons often affected reluctance to do so. ‘It hath always been a burden to me to speak in this House’, announced John Pym in 1621, ‘and much against my disposition’. In 1606 Robert Bowyer declared that ‘it is not my desire to hear myself speak’, a claim that was repeated almost verbatim, if less truthfully, by Sir James Perrot in 1621.31 During the late Elizabethan period Sir Robert Cecil often began addressing the Commons by announcing his reluctance to speak.32 Others liked to try to forestall criticism of their speeches by indicating that their efforts were likely to be poor and unconvincing. In November 1610 Christopher Brooke, on hearing that the king was unwilling to suffer a diminution in his revenue by abandoning impositions, declared that ‘he had rather speak weakly than be silent’.33 Despite the convention that required Members to affect reluctance to speak, there were certainly occasions when some would genuinely have rather remained silent. When, on 22 March 1628, Secretary of State Sir John Coke declared that ‘I had rather you hear any than me’, he was probably speaking the truth, as he was about to perform the unenviable task of admitting that the Crown had resorted to illegal methods in order to raise money.34

It was generally agreed that Members should speak according to the dictates of their conscience, even if what they had to say was unpopular. ‘I have learned it for a rule in this House’, declared one Member in 1601, that ‘it is better to venture credit than conscience’.35 In April 1628 Christopher Sherland opined that any man not brave enough to speak his mind should be expelled.36 In reality, of course, Members did not always speak from conviction. Some, with an eye to their future career, found it wise to support the Crown’s interests, whatever their private view. Among those whom Robert Bowyer disparagingly dismissed as men ‘who studied to please’ were the lawyers Sir Henry Yelverton, who reached an accommodation with the king in 1609 in the hope of preferment, and Leonard Bawtree, who earned himself a serjeantcy in 1614 for endorsing in Parliament the Crown’s right to levy impositions.37 It was, nevertheless, commonplace for a Member to declare that he was speaking his conscience even when he was almost certainly not. In November 1601 Francis Bacon, a member of the queen’s legal team, professed to have ‘delivered my conscience in saying that which I have said’ after he defended the Crown’s right to issue grants of monopoly.38 In April 1607 Sir Edwin Sandys, after proposing that the Commons should pursue the perfect Union after all, disingenuously declared that ‘I speak my own heart’s desire, and … do not know any man that hath spoken in that course but spake as he thought’.39

Although Members were expected to speak according to their conscience and on behalf of those whom they represented, many also acted as spokesmen for the Court, for private lobby groups or aristocratic patrons. Before the early seventeenth century speaking in more than one capacity – or as Solicitor General Heath put it in 1625, ‘as a private man and the servant of His Majesty’ on the one hand and ‘as a public man for the public good’ on the other – was uncontroversial.40 However, under the early Stuarts courtiers and the holders of central government office came increasingly under suspicion, being widely regarded as more concerned to further the interests of the king than those of their constituents or the country at large.41 In 1626 and 1628/9 some sought to play down their Court connections for fear that their words would be discounted. ‘I speak as a Member of this House, not as the king’s servant’, declared Solicitor General Shilton in 1628, while the earl of Pembroke’s client Sir Benjamin Rudyard asserted that he was ‘no man’s advocate’.42

A Member paid to speak on behalf of a particular interest group theoretically committed no offence. Indeed, it was common for individuals to be paid to act as spokesmen by lobby groups in respect of bills. In 1604, for instance, Sir Henry Montagu, the recorder of London, was given £5 by the Brewers’ Company for ‘his fee, and for drawing our bill into the Parliament House’.43 However, the knowledge that some Members could be bought or hired in the same way that lawyers could be retained to argue a brief made many uneasy, particularly in the febrile atmosphere of the mid 1620s. When the barrister Thomas Malet declared during the subsidy debate of August 1625 that he would address the House ‘like a courtier’ rather than as a lawyer, an alarmed Sir John Eliot, clearly suspecting that Malet had been coerced or bought off, expressed amazement that a man whose livelihood depended on legal precedent should deny that precedent was relevant in this case.44 In May 1626 a bill ‘to avoid suspicion of injustice in any Member of the Commons House of Parliament’ was laid before the House. Though it failed to progress beyond a second reading, this measure sought to require each Member to swear at the beginning of a Parliament that he would ‘truly and indifferently’ give his opinion ‘without any affection or respect of persons, freely and indifferently’, and threatened to fine heavily anyone who paid a Member to speak in his cause.45

Although Members were normally expected to contribute to debate, the time available was not endless. ‘If every man should speak at large and of several matters’, declared William Hakewill during the debates on the Petition of Right, ‘I fear our pains would prove fruitless’.46 Nonetheless it seems to have been generally agreed, as Nicholas Fuller remarked, that on matters of importance it was best if ‘every man speak’ rather than ‘a few eloquently’.47 No less than twenty-three Members are known to have spoken in May 1604 regarding the failure of the lieutenant of the Tower to imprison the warden of the Fleet in Little Ease, and in May 1628 at least twenty-seven contributed to the third reading debate on the bill against scandalous ministers.48 These numbers are significantly higher than those given by Sir John Neale for Elizabeth’s reign, but whether this represents a real increase in participation or merely the fuller reporting of debates is unclear.49

Over the course of a session the proportion of Members who spoke was never very high, as Notestein observed.50 During the second half of Elizabeth’s reign between ten and 20 per cent of Members only are known to have uttered anything at all.51 Under the early Stuarts the proportion seems to have been higher, although this may, of course, reflect the survival of more complete source materials. Even so, it was not uncommon for two thirds of Members to say nothing at all. In 1625, for instance, only around 27 per cent of Members are known to have contributed anything to debate.52 Higher levels of participation can be detected in the turbulent sessions of 1614 and 1628, when around 42 and 36 per cent of Members respectively are recorded as having spoken.53 Nevertheless, many of those who addressed the House during these assemblies were hardly habitual speakers. More than a quarter of those who joined in debate in 1614, for instance, spoke only once before the Parliament ended. Members who regularly sat and yet said nothing were not unknown: Sir John Cutts served in seven of the nine parliaments which met between 1604 and 1640 and, so far as can be discerned, never addressed the House. While some Members, such as Sir Dudley Digges, were famous for never being short of something to say,54 others found it possible, through either committee work or backroom manoeuvrings, to make a name for themselves without ever having to deliver speeches. Figures of no less stature than Sir Francis Barrington and Sir Henry Neville (a behind the scenes fixer, if ever there was one) seem barely to have uttered a word during the first Jacobean Parliament.55

From time to time a Member whose personal interests were closely related to the matter under debate might be barred temporarily from sitting, or at least expected to withdraw of his own volition. In June 1604 James Kirton moved that Edward Seymour, Member for Devon and a party to the bill for settling the lands of the late Protector Somerset, who had been executed half a century earlier, should leave the chamber during the debate, ‘which was conceived to be agreeable with former order and precedent in like cases, and so was ordered’. More often than not, however, the Commons was reluctant to instruct interested parties to leave. Three days after Seymour was ordered out, a similar motion directed at any Member who was an accountant or a receiver was resisted, even though the House was then about to debate the 1601 Act making such officers personally liable for the debts of their office. In April 1606 Sir Edward Hoby gallantly offered to withdraw when the Commons turned its attention to the grievances connected with his wool patent, ‘but the House willed him to stay, having lately given that favour to Sir Roger Aston’. When, eventually, Hoby left the chamber it was at his own wish and ‘contrary to expectation’.56

Wherever possible the House drew its definition of interested parties narrowly. Following the order barring Seymour from debate, a motion to extend this instruction to all the servants of the earl of Hertford in the Commons was refused on the grounds that they were ‘no parties themselves’. In March 1624 Barnaby Gooch, the master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and one of the Members for Cambridge University, was permitted to remain in the chamber during the second reading debate on a bill introduced by his own college, despite opposition from Sir Walter Earle, after Sir Humphrey May declared that the order barring interested parties extended only to those whose private estates rather than professional interests were involved. As May correctly pointed out, the Commons had previously allowed the chief officers of the Merchant Adventurers’ Company with seats in the Commons to remain ‘when their charter and the misdemeanours that have been committed by that company have been here questioned’.57

Rules of debate

On the floor of the House Members spoke standing, as this made it easier for them to be heard and identified. When Sir Christopher Pigott tried to address the House from his seat in February 1607 he was urged, ‘for order sake’, to stand up.58 In committee, by contrast, Members were entitled to remain seated when speaking. While committees remained small this caused little difficulty, but in larger gatherings this could create problems. As an angry exchange between Sir Edward Hoby and Sir Walter Ralegh in November 1601 demonstrates, it could be hard to hear a Member who remained seated in such meetings.59

Those who addressed the House were required to remove their hats; only in committee were they sometimes allowed to remain remained covered.60 When two Members rose to speak at roughly the same time, the second man to rise up was expected to resume his seat for, as Sir James Whitelocke commented ruefully in April 1614, ‘here not ancientness respected, but first standing up’.61 Where it was unclear which man had risen first, one might offer to give way, as Secretary Calvert did to Edward Alford in February 1621.62 More often than not, however, it was necessary for a third party to intervene. In 1621 Alford, agreeing with precedents dating from 1604, maintained that it was the duty of the House to decide who should speak first in such cases. In the event it was decided that this task properly belonged to the Speaker, a view promoted by Sir George More and shared by the procedural expert William Hakewill.63 The Speaker was required to take this duty seriously. When, on being required to decide which of two men should speak first, Speaker Richardson flippantly suggested that ‘the wisest would sit down first’, William Noye demanded that he be punished.64 Any man who refused to yield after it had been decided that another should speak was to be called to the bar.65

During a debate in the House Members were generally entitled to speak only once or else, as the Elizabethan commentator Sir Thomas Smith observed, ‘one or two with altercation would spend all the time’.66 Debates following the first reading of a bill were discouraged in order to save time, though under James first reading debates were not unknown. 67 If a measure was read three times in a single day Members were not restricted to just one intervention each.68 By restricting Members to one intervention per debate the Commons inadvertently encouraged deviousness. Writing early in James’s reign, the author of ‘Policies in Parliaments’ recommended that a Member who wished to speak to a bill should ‘forbear till all those have spoken whom he feareth will most, and can best oppose it’. In this way his opponents would be unable to respond after he rebutted their arguments.69

From at least 1601 some Members began to argue that they should be permitted more than one intervention whenever a debate resulted in the discussion of several different matters.70 The issue was discussed at length in March 1606, when the House attempted to resolve the vexed problem of whether to allow Members to speak on the same subject on two consecutive days.71 Many Members thought that a distinction should be drawn between bills and propositions. To a bill, it was suggested, Members should be restricted to just one intervention, whereas to propositions he should be entitled to speak once every day, for as long as the debate continued, ‘unless the House, ‘perceiving the matter likely to prove long’, decided to order otherwise. The thinking behind this distinction was that ‘a bill showeth all that is in question’, every man being expected to show what he knew of it from the outset, whereas propositions ‘yield new matter as occasions require’.72 In the event, no modification to the rules was made, but the idea that a distinction was to be drawn between ‘bills’ and ‘new matter’ proved enduring: when Sir Walter Earle tried to prevent Sir Samuel Sandys from speaking twice in a debate on Virginia in April 1621, Sandys replied that he was perfectly entitled to do so ‘upon a new question’. It seems that before the end of the 1621 Parliament this distinction had become embodied in a firm rule.73

Members who tried to speak more than once were liable to be reprimanded. During the debate on the alehouse patent in April 1621, for instance, Sir Francis Seymour attempted to speak again only to be interrupted by the Speaker, while in March 1626 Clement Coke was ‘cried down’ for trying to take a second bite of the cherry.74 However, every now and then the Commons bent its own rules. In May 1621, for example, Sir Edward Montagu was granted special permission to speak twice. In May 1628 John Selden was given similar leave after Sir Edward Coke declared that the prohibition on Members speaking more than once was ‘no constant rule of the House’.75 Coke’s claim was not without foundation, for there are innumerable instances of Members speaking more than once without hindrance. In May 1610, for instance, two Members spoke twice in the same debate without permission, as did Sir Julius Caesar the following July.76 In December 1621, when Members sought to justify their right to debate the marriage of the king’s son, Sir Robert Phelips spoke no less than three times in rapid succession on the House’s petition to the king, as, astonishingly, did Hakewill.77 Once the House had quietly decided to suspend its rules in relation to one speaker, others naturally expected the same consideration. After Sir Dudley Carleton spoke twice in a single debate in May 1626 Francis Rous asked for ‘the same favour’ to be allowed to other Members.78 Any attempt to enforce the rules selectively in order to silence those whom the House did not wish to hear was liable to provoke protest. ‘I wonder [there is] such contention for my speaking’, remarked Solicitor General Heath in May 1621, when he rose to speak for a second time during the debate on the Catholic barrister Edward Floyd, ‘when so many [others] have’.79 Nevertheless, in April 1641 several Members were accused of having spoken already in order to prevent them from speaking at all.80

The frequency with which the Commons ignored its own rules to allow Members to speak more than once perhaps reflected the impact on its proceedings of the committee of the whole House. It had long been a rule that, in committee, Members were entitled to speak as often as they liked, because the purpose of a committee was to mull over the details whereas speeches in the House were merely intended ‘to persuade the general point’.81 Before the early seventeenth century committees had tended to be fairly small, but with the emergence of the committee of the whole House it became possible for the entire membership of the Commons to engage in a free-flowing debate, in which individuals were permitted to respond to their critics and opponents if they wished. Many Members welcomed and encouraged this development, which echoed the practice followed in university disputations.82 When Sir Edwin Sandys urged his colleagues to prepare for a conference with the Lords over the Union in November 1606 he called for a committee of the whole House, ‘because there reply is admitted, which is not here’.83

The chief disadvantage of grand committees, however, was that one or two Members might simply dominate proceedings to the exclusion of everyone else. Consequently, until the 1620s, when grand committees were often used to bypass the Speaker, there was no guarantee that matters of importance would be debated in committee. Indeed it was perhaps because the advantages of doing so were not yet clear that on 1 May 1610 the Commons debated whether to consider the Great Contract in committee or in the House.84

Although a Member was usually only permitted to speak once per debate in the House, he was entitled to hold forth for as long as he liked once he had the floor providing that he stuck to the point.85 Many were quick to take full advantage of this right, and not only ministers of the Crown.86 In 1606 Richard Young and Sir Herbert Croft gave speeches described as ‘very long’. Sir Edwin Sandys took an hour-and-a – half to condemn composition for purveyance in March 1607, and the following month he delivered a celebrated speech on the Union that one observer described as both ‘learned’ and ‘long’.87 In February 1621 Sir Dudley Digges devoted no less than an hour to attacking the monopolist Sir Francis Michell.88 Many contributors to the impositions debates of 1610 spoke for two hours at a time, as did Sir William Maurice, when he vainly tried to revive the Union that same year.89 In committee, too, Members seem to have been permitted to hold forth for as long as they liked. In April 1624 Nicholas Ferrar spoke ‘long above an hour’ in the committee that examined the complaints against Lord Treasurer Middlesex.90

Long speeches, however, made for long debates. By 1601 four-hour debates had become commonplace,91 and under the early Stuarts this trend showed no sign of being reversed. After three bills were given a first reading, the whole of the morning of 17 February 1606 was taken up by a single debate between just three Members on the subject of Scottish naturalization. In April 1628 Sir Humphrey May, sensing that the subsidy debate, which had already lasted four hours, was likely to last another sixty minutes, tactfully tried to draw proceedings to a close.92 Many debates, however, remained unfinished at the end of one day and had to be allowed to continue the next. After the best part of the day was spent debating whether to vote additional subsidies, and with many other Members still wanting to speak, on 5 August 1625 the Commons ordered the debate to be resumed the following morning.93 One of the longest debates of the period concerned impositions, which commenced on 23 June 1610 and continued sporadically until 3 July. Interestingly, it began less than two weeks after Lord Treasurer Salisbury complained that the Commons had spent months engaged in ‘extravagant discourses, whereof some square, some long, some short, but all circular, for we are there almost where we first began’.94

Despite Salisbury’s complaint, many Members were acutely aware that long speeches were broadly undesirable as they consumed valuable time.95 ‘I will endeavour in this question’, declared Sir Henry Hobart in 1610, ‘to speak shortly, as is fittest in Parliament’. In 1628 Sir Dudley Digges announced that, in committee, Members should ‘observe the order of the sea-fight: bear [in] and board; use short speeches’.96 Even Sir Edward Coke, a man not generally given to pithy interventions, frequently extolled the virtues of brevity.97 In practice, long speeches were usually tolerated provided they were entertaining and well crafted. In May 1607 Sir Lewis Lewknor delivered a speech ‘of length and eloquence’ on the Hostile Laws bill that was ‘much approved’. Three years earlier Sir James Perrot and Sir Maurice Berkeley delivered long speeches that the clerk of the Commons considered ‘very good’ and ‘excellent’ respectively.98 However lengthy speeches, no matter how well argued or entertaining, were unlikely to be tolerated if most Members disagreed with their contents. As Dudley Carleton acutely observed at the height of the Union debates in April 1607, ‘here be some gentlemen [who] are enemies to long speeches if they concur not with their own sense’.99 The hostile reaction to some of the lengthy orations of Sir William Maurice may have owed as much to the latter’s enthusiasm for the Union as to his shortcomings as a speaker.100 A Member who held the attention of his colleagues despite the unpopularity of his views was rare indeed. One of the very few to accomplish this feat was the privy councillor Sir Humphrey May, whose wit, observed Sir John Eliot, ‘always drew the attention of the House, though his motions seldom relished it’.101 Another, perhaps, was Sir Henry Wotton who, in May 1614, defended the Crown’s right to levy impositions in a speech described by one well-informed commentator as ‘very mannerly and demur’.102

Members were entitled to use notes or other reference material when delivering a speech.103 In June 1607, for instance, Nicholas Fuller addressed the House at length on the bill to limit the powers of High Commission, while holding notes in his hand ‘for his remembrance’.104 Those entrusted with reporting the proceedings of a conference with the Lords found it particularly helpful to be allowed their notes, as they were under an obligation to give as full and accurate an account as possible.105 One of the best speakers in the House, Sir Edward Coke, considered that it was an essential requirement of a Parliament-man to be ‘of a most ripe and perfect memory’, yet he himself often carried in his pocket a small notebook containing lists of statutes and precedents, which he frequently consulted during debate. On one occasion in 1628 he was unable to cite a particular statute as fully as he desired as he had forgotten to bring his notebook with him.106

Not everyone approved of written aids, for once notes were permitted Members might soon begin reading from prepared texts, reducing debate to a series of set-piece, disconnected speeches. In February 1607 William Brocke witheringly remarked of his fellow lawyer Sir Robert Hitcham that he had delivered a speech ‘of great reading, for he read almost two leaves’.107 In November 1621 Edward Nicholas complained in his diary that Sir Richard Grosvenor ‘read us a large lecture’ out of his papers. Nicholas’s disgust was shared by Sir James Perrot, who promised that, unlike Grosvenor, he would ‘speak without book’.108 In May 1614 Sir John Savile, declaring ‘that it was the order of the House not to read but to speak’, rebuked Sir William Cavendish for addressing the House with the aid of notes. He was quickly corrected by Sir Jerome Horsey, who pointed out that notes were indeed allowed,109 but the disapproval expressed by Savile helps to explain why, in May 1610, Sir Julius Caesar sought permission to ‘use the help of my paper’ on being required to report his delivery of a petition to the king.110 In February 1621 the Commons ordered that during bill debates Members were not to speak with a copy of the bill in their hands. No reason for this ruling is given, but it seems likely that its purpose was to prevent Members from simply standing up and quoting great chunks of the text.111

The disapproval directed at those who read from a text in part reflected a dislike of planned speeches. Quite apart from anything else, it was difficult for other Members to respond adequately to a well-planned speech, particularly if it was long and complex. After listening to James Morice in February 1593, James Dalton declared that ‘it is hard upon a sudden for me to answer a long, premeditated speech’, a view echoed by Robert Cecil.112 Another reason for the disapproval was that, to many, planned speeches smacked of insincerity. Writing after his parliamentary career had ended, Sir John Eliot declared that in the Commons ‘premeditation’ was ‘always … an error’ because those who spoke from ‘the mouth’ were less convincing than those who spoke from ‘the heart’. He contrasted Sir Benjamin Rudyard, who ‘did speak never but premeditated’, with Sir Robert Phelips, who always spoke off the cuff. Rudyard’s speeches, he declared, though delivered without the aid of notes, ‘had more show of memory than affection’, whereas Phelips’ habit of speaking extemporaneously made his arguments ‘more genuine and particular’ and therefore ‘more acceptable and persuasive’.113 Eliot, of course, was trying to justify his own preferred method of speaking, which was often so intemperate that in May 1626 it landed him in serious trouble with the king. Nevertheless, Eliot was by no means unusual in finding planned speeches unconvincing. In 1606 Robert Bowyer recorded with distaste that the preamble to one of Sir Henry Poole’s speeches was ‘somewhat far-fetched and premeditated’, while in 1607 James complained that many in the Commons were given to delivering ‘long pre-cogitate orations’. In 1624 Sir Edward Coke, aware that carefully crafted speeches tended to sound unconvincing, promised that he would ‘observe no method in his speech, since method is but an accessory to matter and he will not lose this for that’.114

Although some clearly disliked planned speeches, it was unrealistic to expect Members not to sketch out their arguments in advance. While some were certainly ‘dexterous at short and quick returns’, as one contemporary commentator put it,115 few were capable of sustaining long, complex arguments, or of marshalling the relevant historical and legal precedents, without giving the matter any prior thought, particularly if they were no longer at the height of their powers. As Edward Alford told the Commons in 1628, it was not his ‘fashion to speak suddenly to anything’ because he was ‘old’.116 Members who failed to plan their speeches ran the risk of rambling on. In November 1606 Sir Edward Greville gave a ‘distracted and confused speech’ which was so dreadful that it was glossed over in silence.117

Just how many Members planned their speeches in advance can never be known. However, by the late 1620s it was not uncommon for Members to make available to their friends their speeches in manuscript form so that these could be copied and considered at leisure,118 a practice which would have been impossible unless they first had a text from which to work. Ministers for the Crown certainly prepared many of their speeches, particularly on being required to request a vote of subsidy from the Commons. When Sir John Coke asked for a grant of supply on the morning of 8 July 1625 he drew upon a text that he had spent most of the night drafting and which had gone through at least three versions before it was complete.119 Debates that extended over more than one day were almost calculated to encourage planned speeches, as Members were given the time to work out what they wanted to say. In February 1621, just as the week-long debate on the Commons’ right to free speech reached its climax, Edward Alford drafted a speech that began ‘O fatal week and dismal day’.120 He was prevented from addressing the House, however, by Secretary Calvert, who announced that the king had decided to allow the Commons the same rights as his predecessors. Alford was by no means alone in drafting a speech that was never, in fact, delivered. In 1604 Sir Edward Montagu prepared a speech calling for the bill of annexation to be stayed ‘but it was not spoken’, and in August 1625 Henry Sherfield jotted down notes for a speech never given on the Crown’s request for additional subsidies.121

During debate Members were expected to stick to the point, avoid superfluous motions and not to change the subject before the matter under discussion had been dealt with. Any man who broke this rule was liable to be halted by the Speaker.122 In March 1607 Sir William Maurice interrupted a debate on the proposed naturalization of the Scots in order ‘to discourse the name of Britain’, a subject which had been settled in 1604, whereupon he was silenced by Speaker Phelips.123 In April 1628 Sir Benjamin Rudyard, in the midst of recounting a dream he had had the previous night, was told to sit down by Speaker Finch on the grounds that ‘a Parliament is no place to tell dreams in’.124 Occasionally the Speaker proved slow to chide those who strayed from the point. It was Richard Martin rather than Speaker Phelips who, in June 1604, upbraided Sir Lewis Lewknor for urging the House to reply to the king’s request for a subsidy before it had responded to Sir Edward Hoby’s motion regarding James’s recent fall from a horse.125

The Speaker was not entitled to interrupt a man for raising a subject that he did not wish to hear. In June 1607 Speaker Phelips, doubtless mindful of the king’s views, interrupted Nicholas Fuller in the midst of an attack on High Commission, an action that was ‘contrary, as some conceived, to order’.126 However, the Speaker was entitled to interrupt those who butted in while others were speaking. In April 1614 Christopher Brooke was cut short by Sir Dudley Digges and Sir Mervyn Audley while introducing a bill on apparel, for which offence both men were rebuked. However, as with those who wandered off the point, the Speaker sometimes proved reluctant to intervene. Three weeks after upbraiding Digges and Audley, Speaker Crewe failed to prevent Sir Edward Giles from interrupting Sir Robert Gardener. A mortified Sir Herbert Croft, comparing the House to a cockpit, reminded Giles that only the Speaker was permitted to interrupt, whereupon he was accused of ‘assuming too much regularity to himself’ by Sir Jerome Horsey.127 In May 1621 Speaker Richardson conspicuously failed to reprimand Sir Edward Cecil for interrupting Sir Lionel Cranfield after the latter accused the House of inconstancy.128

Private conversation was not permitted, for as Speaker Coke observed in 1593, ‘only public speeches are to be used’ in the Commons. In March 1624 Edward Alford moved to have Martin Bond summoned to the bar ‘for whispering his partner Bateman in the ear’ when Bateman was called upon to deliver an account of the money in the East India Company ships then in the Thames.129 Members were expected to focus their attention upon the formal debate and to sit quietly during bill readings rather than to engage in private conversation. However, this was a counsel of perfection. It was hard for Members to resist chatting during bill readings, many of which were interminably dull. Their inability to do was one reason given by Sir Edward Montagu in May 1614 to explain why so many bills were poorly drafted.130 During debate, those who captivated and entertained their listeners were rewarded with ‘a great silence and attention’, as Hakewill observed, but any man who bored his audience, went too far or argued an unpopular case was liable to be interrupted or drowned out by his colleagues, many of whom would talk among themselves, ‘hawk and hem’ or ‘make some noise by scraping with their feet’.131

Efforts to stamp out heckling met with only limited success. In March 1604 Edward Hext, outraged at having been hissed at two days earlier, called for Members to listen with more reverence in future, a motion that was ‘generally liked’ and ‘well approved’. Three months later, however, Sir Lewis Lewknor also suffered the indignity of being hissed down, whereupon the House threatened to call any further offenders to the bar and charge them with ‘breach of order and contempt to the House’.132 For the time being this ruling seems to have proved efficacious, but over the long term it was hoping for too much to expect Members to sit silently through speeches with which they profoundly disagreed. In 1610 so much coughing and hawking greeted Sir Henry Montagu’s assertion that a privy councillor was legally entitled to imprison any man he wished that Montagu ‘could scarce be heard’.133 Sir William Maurice’s long-winded and ill-considered attempt to revive the Union that same year was greeted with ‘interruption and whistling’.134 In 1614 Leonard Bawtree was barracked when he observed that the unwillingness of the Commons to listen to speeches on unpopular subjects, such as supply, demonstrated that there was ‘not always freedom of speech here’.135 Even more hostility was aroused in 1621 by Thomas Sheppard, whose ferocious attack on the Sabbath bill so enraged his listeners that he was stopped in his tracks by loud demands that he be called to the bar.136 In 1624 Barnaby Gooch was silenced by hecklers after bravely declaring his opposition to a war with Spain.137

Just as Members were not supposed to heckle one another, neither were they entitled to use ‘reviling or nipping words’. On the contrary, they were generally expected to address each other through the chair and to avoid referring to one another by name. A Member who wished to mention the previous speaker often alluded to ‘the gentleman that spoke last’, while the Speaker was often referred to respectfully as ‘sir’. In this way it was hoped that heated exchanges would be prevented. However, as Sir Thomas Smith observed in the 1560s, Members were inclined to ‘make their reasons as violent and as vehement the one against the other as they may’.138 In June 1604 Sir Robert Wroth ‘remembereth a scoff used by Mr Martin upon the speech the last day’, whereupon Martin ‘answereth bitterly, and remembereth the jest of Sir John Hungerford’, who rejoined that ‘Mr Martin, for a good jester, should be recorded’. In March 1606 Sir William Skipwith ‘cleareth himself of the imputation of flattery yesterday; and returneth it upon Sir Henry Hobart, to be blown into the mouth from whence it came’.139 One particularly vicious attack was carried out in April 1628 by Christopher Sherland, who described his parliamentary colleague John Baber as ‘a coward’, ‘a knave’ and a ‘whitelivered creature’.140 A Member who made a hash of his speech was likely to be given a rough ride. When, in April 1624, Sir Peter Mutton clumsily referred to the fact that Lord Treasurer Middlesex had illegally created a dry stamp, he was ridiculed by Sir Edward Coke, as ‘Sir Peter Stamp’.141

Those who engaged in personal abuse were seldom reprimanded, but from time to time the House decided that a Member had gone too far. In March 1606 Solicitor General Doddridge was called to the bar after bitterly questioning the loyalty of William Noye for opposing a grant of subsidy.142 In November 1621 Sir Jerome Horsey was ‘reproved for personal taxation’ after he accused Barnaby Gooch, chancellor to the bishop of Exeter, of ‘speaking for his penny’ after Gooch defended the quality of the clergy.143 It was generally expected that Members of the upper House would be mentioned with courtesy, even if their opinions of persons were thought odious. However this convention broke down in May 1614, when the Commons permitted its Members to pour scorn on Bishop Neile of Lincoln after the latter accused the lower House of sedition.144 It broke down again in May 1626 when, during the presentation of charges of impeachment to the Lords, Sir John Eliot not only likened Buckingham to stellionatus (a mythical beast synonymous with underhand dealing) but also referred to him throughout his speech as ‘this man’, ‘a man’ and ‘the man’. For many of those present, Eliot’s failure to observe the customary courtesies was extremely shocking and fully justified his subsequent imprisonment. Speaking for the Crown the following day, Sir Dudley Carleton observed, ‘I have heard the like when a criminal has been indicted at the bar, but at a conference with the Lords in a parliamentary proceeding I never saw it’.145 Eliot, however, was not the only Member to misjudge the mood of at least some of his colleagues. At the beginning of the 1621 Parliament many Members, anxious to avoid a return to rule without parliaments, proved keen to do nothing that might reawaken in James memories of the disastrous 1614 meeting. Consequently when Horsey referred to Bishop Neile as ‘unreverend bishop’, ‘he was commanded silence’.146

The requirement that Members refrain from making personal attacks was not the only limitation placed on their freedom of speech. In 1625 Sir Edward Coke declared that ‘many men’, including himself, ‘will speak in Parliament that which they dare not speak otherwise’, but as Hakewill observed, anyone rash enough to ‘break forth into intemperate and indiscreet speeches either against the king or against the government in general, or against persons in great place or office in state’ was liable to be interrupted, called to the bar as a delinquent and sent to the Tower.147 Indeed, it was well understood that there was no excuse – not even the right to speak according to one’s conscience – for criticizing the king, because as Sir Edwin Sandys observed in February 1621, ‘no man can have any conscience to speak against the king’.148 Consequently, when John More appeared to say in June 1626 that if the king wished to keep his crown he should preserve the liberties of his subjects, it was not only the chancellor of the Exchequer who rounded on him.149

The convention that Members should not attack the monarch was so ingrained that it is perhaps remarkable that it should ever have been called into question. Nevertheless, in May 1614 both Sir Edwin Sandys (despite his later remarks) and Thomas Wentworth of Henley came perilously close to accusing James of being a tyrant.150 Since the Commons did nothing to punish these outbursts, or the equally offensive remarks of John Hoskins, who predicted that the Scots in England would be massacred unless they returned home, a shocked king had the culprits arrested. In so doing, James followed the example set by his predecessor Elizabeth, who had imprisoned Wentworth’s father Peter in 1576 for daring to raise the matter of the succession in Parliament.

On the face of it, Sandys later regretted his rash outburst. In February 1621, soon after the Commons was officially warned ‘not to turn liberty of speech into licence or break the reverence due to a sovereign’, he proposed that the Commons draw up a bill to guarantee the Commons the right of free speech and ‘to punish the extravagant speeches of this House’. What Sandys had in mind is unclear, but given that he proposed that the measure should also include a clause ‘against misinformation of His Majesty, of any man’s speech, either in Parliament or after’, it would seem that he was just as concerned to protect individual Members from the king as to prevent violent speeches from being made in the Commons.151 A statutory offence would inevitably have fixed responsibility for deciding whether Members had spoken inappropriately with the judges rather than the king. By proposing to afford Members the protection of the law, Sandys was not so much apologizing for past actions as saying that the monarch’s power to imprison those whose speeches he disliked was incompatible with the Commons’ right to free speech.

Just as those who criticized the king were liable to be punished, so too were any who defamed the Commons. When, during the purveyance debates of April 1604, a furious Griffith Payne – a purveyor himself – accused the House of seeking to ‘dishonour the king, disgrace the Council’ and ‘discredit the opinion of the judges’, he was summoned to the bar, charged with contempt and (on the pretext that he was a mayor and thus incapable of sitting) suspended from membership.152 In August 1625 Edward Clarke, a partisan of the duke of Buckingham, accused some of his colleagues of using ‘bitter invectives’, and on being required to explain his meaning at the bar ‘gave greater offence’, for which affront he was ordered out.153 The care with which the House defended its own honour was not always mirrored by an equal enthusiasm to avoid giving offence to the king. In February 1607 nothing was done to prevent Sir Christopher Pigott from completing his tirade against the Scots, to the astonishment of James, who administered a sharp rebuke.154 Nevertheless, the Commons was unwilling to entertain speeches that intruded upon the king’s privacy. When the king’s carver, Sir Walter Chute, revealed to the House words spoken at supper by James the previous evening, Sir Edward Hoby demanded to know whether he ‘had warrant from the king to speak this here, since it was but at the king’s meal and in his Privy Chamber’.155

Only the monarch was permitted to restrict the range of subjects that the Commons could debate. Consequently, when Convocation protested in June 1604 that the House had no right to discuss religion it was ignored.156 One topic that the king tried to keep out of the parliamentary arena was the advice given to him in private. When, in April 1621, the Commons insisted on pursuing those ministers who had advised him to issue various patents that he had already condemned as a grievance, James declared that the House should be careful ‘not to condemn men for error in opinion if there were no corruption’.157 In August 1625 Sir Robert Mansell eagerly revealed to the Commons the discussions that had taken place in the council of war, of which he was a member. However, these revelations clearly annoyed the king, and by February 1626 Mansell was under enormous pressure from his fellow councillors to respect the confidentiality of the council’s proceedings. Consequently, on being pressed to declare what else he knew, Mansell announced that, ‘being the king’s servant, he dare not open what he has to say’.158

Members were in theory barred from debating any matter relating to the royal prerogative without the monarch’s express permission. Insofar as this prohibition affected the king alone, the stricture was uncontroversial. Treason, for instance, was out of bounds because, as the solicitor general observed in 1604, it was a crime directed solely against the person of the king.159 Less clear-cut, however, was the right of the Commons to discuss financial or religious matters where these conflicted with the king’s prerogative rights. Provided the king defended true religion and honoured the principle that no taxation should be levied without the consent of his subjects, most Members seem to have believed that it was not the business of the Commons to tell the king how to govern his kingdom. However, James’s attempts to raise money from his subjects without reference to Parliament, and his pursuit of a Catholic marriage for Prince Charles, made it increasingly difficult for the Commons to avoid encroaching upon the royal prerogative. At the height of the acrimonious impositions debate in May 1614, Sir Edwin Sandys declared that Members were free ‘to consult of what they shall determine themselves; for if they should be bound to treat of what the king list, there is no freedom’.160 At that time few others were prepared to go that far, for although many in 1614 were evidently eager to debate the king’s plan to marry Prince Charles to a French princess no-one was prepared to do so without James’s permission.161 Not until December 1621, when anxiety at the prospect of a Catholic marriage for the prince was coupled with fear of the growth of popery at home and abroad, was this reluctance to debate the marriage of the heir to the throne finally overcome.

Although there were rules governing the language that Members should use and the subjects they could discuss, there were none to regulate gestures. Members might be required to refer to one another by name, but they were not explicitly forbidden from waving their hands around or pointing at each other. In December 1601 the godly Sir Francis Hastings jabbed his finger at John Bond while accusing him of being ‘far from religion’ for opposing the Sabbath bill.162 In March 1621 Sir Edward Coke, after declaring that projectors should be hanged, pointed dramatically at the monopolist Sir Robert Floyd while expressing astonishment that ‘this man’ was not only alive but sitting among them.163 Coke, who subsequently stabbed his finger at Cranfield during a conference with the Lords, was so well known for the gestures which accompanied his speeches that in April 1628 the bishop of Lincoln emulated them ‘most fully and naturally’, to the delight of his fellow peers.164 Provided that those doing the pointing were expressing views that were widely shared, the House was prepared to tolerate any amount of hostile gestures. It is true that in February 1621 Thomas Sheppard was accused of making ‘malapert gesture[s]’ and ‘unseemly actions’, but his real offence was to launch an impassioned attack on the popular Sabbath bill.165

Pointing was often highly intimidating. During the subsidy debate of 5 August 1625 the courtiers in the House grew ‘fearful’ for themselves and anxious for their friends, ‘whom they saw aimed and pointed at’.166 However, pointing was not always a hostile gesture: in December 1601 Sir Robert Cecil, directing his finger towards Sir Walter Ralegh, declared that ‘I see no reason … why any in this House should speak so imperiously as to have a gentleman of his place and quality called to the bar’.167 Many other gestures, too, were essentially harmless if rather absurd. Benjamin Valentine was lampooned in 1628 for his habit of beating his breast while addressing the House, while Lawrence Hyde attracted ridicule for rolling his eyes.168 More ominous, however, was Eliot’s flinging to the floor of his declaration against Tunnage and Poundage on 2 March 1629, since it preceded the act of holding the Speaker down in his chair.169

From time to time Members were reminded that what was said in the chamber was meant to remain secret. In 1589, for instance, they were admonished ‘that speeches used in this House should not be made table talk nor in notes in writing to any not Members of this House’.170 However, few of the House’s rules were more frequently disregarded than that of secrecy, as Sir John Eliot acknowledged in 1624, when he demanded that there be ‘some general tie of secrecy here among ourselves; which wanting in no council but this’.171 Members commonly sent letters to their friends and relatives about events in the House, or left the chamber only to tell others what had been said. Speaking in the 1628 debate on the imprisonment of Forced Loan refusers, Sir Thomas Wentworth remarked on the fact that the previous day there had been ‘a noise’ in Westminster Hall ‘at our rising, as if all had been lost, and the cause determined quite against us’.172 One afternoon in mid April 1624, at the height of the Commons’ investigation into the conduct of Lord Treasurer Middlesex, Simonds D’Ewes, then a student living with his father, received a visit from the Norfolk Member Sir Thomas Holland, who ‘related unto us that my lord treasurer, according to his appointment on Saturday last, had this day put in his answer, but so slender and insufficient as the House of Commons resolved to transmit him up with his charge to the Lords as a guilty person to be censured by them’. Five days later D’Ewes confided to his diary that ‘the continual intelligence I had of Parliament passages made me neglect my private studies’.173 Those who kept notes or diaries of the Commons’ proceedings often showed them to non-Members while a Parliament was still sitting. One outsider permitted a glimpse of a Member’s diary was the Cambridge-based newsletter writer Joseph Mead. In March 1626 Mead sent Sir Martin Stuteville an account of the questions directed in the House against Buckingham by the Shaftesbury Member Dr. Turner, which he had obtained from ‘a gentleman in his table books’ three days earlier.174

It is perhaps not surprising that many Members were willing to share with others the news of what was happening in Parliament. After all, as elected representatives they were duty bound to keep their constituents informed. However, while few may have seen anything amiss in disclosing the contents of Commons’ debates to all and sundry, many took a different view regarding the relaying of reports to the king. As we have seen, Members enjoyed – within certain prescribed limits – the right of free speech, but if the king learned in detail what they were saying they might be unwilling, for fear of punishment, to express their views openly. Once it had reached a decision the House had a duty to notify the king via the Speaker, but in the meantime it did not expect that the king should be kept abreast of debates, particularly as there was no telling how accurate the reports reaching him might be. The day after James castigated Members for delivering long, empty speeches on the Union, Sir Robert Drury complained to Salisbury that Members’ meanings had been ‘wrested by the carriers, contrary to all honest construction’.175 Instead of listening to private reports of dubious reliability, the Commons expected the king to turn a deaf ear. For him to do otherwise ‘endangereth the liberties of the House’, as Edward Alford observed in May 1621.176 Alford’s view was echoed five years later by Sir Dudley Digges who, in a letter of advice, urged the new king to take notice only of such resolutions as passed the Commons as this would ‘avoid much loss of time and trouble’.177

The idea that the king should not wish to be kept informed in detail of debates in the Commons was, of course, entirely unrealistic. James in particular was eager to know what was being said in the Commons, and since many in the House were the holders of high office or occupied positions at Court they were well placed to divulge to him what they knew. Their colleagues were perfectly well aware of this fact, and whenever the House was berated by the king for words uttered in the chamber suspicion naturally fell on them. In May 1604, for example, ‘out of a fear that the king was much misinformed’, every Member who had access to the king was urged to ‘purge himself’ of the charge of telling tales, ‘either to His Majesty or any privy councillor’. Ten years later, after James wrote to the Commons demanding to know by what right the House had decided to go into recess, John Hoskins declared that ‘it appeared by the king’s letter that the orders of Parliament were not observed, that any should go and acquaint the king what was in debate here’, whereupon Secretary Winwood announced ‘that he thought himself was particularly aimed at’.178 However, the Commons was ultimately powerless to curb such behaviour. In June 1607 Alford, citing a precedent from the reign of Henry VI, advised that any of the king’s servants who had revealed to James matters of debate should be put out of the House, but in the absence of any mechanism for discovering the identity of the guilty party this recommendation was not entirely helpful.179

Giving a speech

When addressing the House, a Member was expected, as Hakewill observed, ‘to speak with a loud voice’, and to ‘turn his face so as he may be best heard and seen’. Anyone who spoke ‘with a low and soft voice’ was invariably ‘called upon to speak out’.180 The best position from which to address the House was the middle of either of the two front rows of benches that ran the length of the chamber. For this reason it was from here that the Speaker-designate always delivered the speech in which, as tradition required, he pleaded his inability and unworthiness to occupy the chair.181 Once installed, however, the Speaker, together with the privy councillors in the House, sat at the eastern end of the chamber. This arrangement was almost bound to create hearing difficulties for those at the western end. In November 1601 Sir Hugh Beeston, sitting close to the door, complained to the Speaker that ‘we that be here cannot hear you that be above’.182 In 1606 Robert Bowyer had difficulty in catching more than a few words spoken by Speaker Phelips, who used ‘a low or soft voice’; on another occasion he was quite unable to hear a speech on purveyance delivered by the privy councillor Sir John Fortescue. However, it was not only those in the vicinity of the chair whose voices sometimes failed to carry. In March 1607 Bowyer noted that Sir Nathaniel Bacon ‘spake so low that he was not to be heard where I stood’. The lieutenant of the Tower, Sir George Hervey, under fierce criticism for having failed to imprison the warden of the Fleet in Little Ease as instructed, spoke so softly in May 1604 that his remarks had to be repeated by the Speaker. In May 1607 Sir Robert Wingfield delivered a speech on the Union despite having a sore throat.183 Of course, not every Member who had difficulty in being heard spoke quietly. When John Hare got to his feet following the committal of the bill to repeal the Hostile Laws in May 1607 there was so much background chatter that he ‘had much ado to be heard’.184

When a Member addressed the House it was helpful if his voice made a pleasing sound. Sir Robert Phelips, perhaps the most widely admired speaker of his age was, according to Eliot, blessed with ‘a voice and pronunciation of much sweetness’ and ‘an affected cadence and delivery’. Others were not so fortunate: poor Hugh Beeston suffered from a stammer,185 while Sir Dudley Digges admitted to the ‘imperfection of speaking fast’.186 Digges, however, was nevertheless widely admired for his skills as a speaker, being once described by Sir Henry Montagu as a man of ‘great valuability and elegance’.187 Sir Francis Bacon too, though a model of eloquence in the eyes of many of his colleagues, was privately aware that he panted while speaking, a fault he hoped to remedy.188

Those who addressed the House were expected to eschew rhetorical devices, which, as Sir Simon Weston remarked in 1626, ‘take up time and are to no purpose’.189 Instead, as Hakewill observed, they were required to be ‘logicians’ rather than ‘rhetoricians’, speaking succinctly and pertinently, adding only those points to the debate that had not previously been mentioned.190 Those who peppered their speeches with unnecessary classical allusions, or engaged in roundabout methods of discourse, were liable to test the patience of their listeners. In May 1621 the soldier Sir Edward Cecil, on acquainting the king with the business of the House, desired the Speaker not to ‘use such large preambles nor eloquence (whereof we have no need) but to go to the purpose’.191 Excessive flattery when addressing the king was certainly to be avoided as it was so obviously insincere: in November 1610 the Commons rejected Sir William Maurice’s draft answer to the king’s demand for haste in bringing the negotiations for the Great Contract to a conclusion as ‘too ceremonious and complimentical, and not real and actual’.192 The king himself certainly favoured plain speaking in Parliament. Furious at the amount of time wasted during the Union debates, James reminded the Commons in March 1607 that ‘studied orations, and much eloquence upon little matter, is fit for the universities’, whereas ‘in all great councils of parliaments, fewest words, with most matter, doth become best’. A beautiful woman, he added witheringly, needed only plain garments; all ‘other deckings are but ensigns of an harlot, that flies with borrowed feathers’.193

Like many in the early seventeenth century, James regarded oratory as a form of populism, and like many of those around him he often employed the word ‘orator’ as a pejorative. In December 1621 he complained to the Commons of ‘some tribunitial orators amongst you’ and of the ‘ejaculations of some foul-mouthed orators in your House’.194 In 1624 James Hay, earl of Carlisle, told the king that although he had been visited by several Parliament-men these were ‘none of those plausible orators, but solid and judicious good patriots’.195 Both Lord Keeper Puckering in 1593 and Lord Chancellor Bacon in 1621 warned the Commons at the beginning of a Parliament to avoid oratory, which Puckering described as both tedious and needlessly ostentatious.196 Some Members of the Commons also shared this hostility to oratory. In May 1610, for instance, Nicholas Fuller condemned a speech delivered by none other than Bacon, then a Member of the Commons, as ‘full of rhetoric and art’.197 In both the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, rhetorical speech was seen in some quarters as more suited to Italian republicanism than monarchical forms of government.198

Although Members were expected to avoid florid and over-elaborate speeches, it was nevertheless hoped that they would seek to sharpen and enliven their speeches. Those in particular who had been trained from an early age to employ rhetoric in their speeches both at school and university were naturally inclined to believe that rhetoric was essential for clarity.199 Anyone who failed to present his arguments crisply and clearly was likely not to be taken seriously. As John Hoskins remarked in about 1599, ‘careless speech doth not only discredit the personage of the speaker but … the opinion of his reason and judgement’.200 Though Fuller disliked Bacon’s elaborate style, many other Members of the first Jacobean Parliament commented on it approvingly, and in 1614 the clerk of the Commons described Bacon as ‘the heir apparent of eloquence’. In 1626, long after Bacon’s Commons’ career had ended, Sir Humphrey May fondly recalled that Bacon had been apt to ‘use many pretty inventions, poetical and historical, to introduce his matter’.201

It was not, of course, necessary to be trained in the art of public speaking to perform well in debate. In March 1606 Walter Gawen, a man of no known education and with no experience of public office, opposed compounding for purveyance ‘with good conceits, himself being a plain man’. Gawen, who sat for Heytesbury, was painfully aware of his lack of education, and on getting up to speak again three weeks later he remarked that ‘I am sure the wise men of this House marvel that I speak at this time’, although of all those who spoke during the debate on the bill to relieve poor prisoners, he was the only one whose contribution the diarist Robert Bowyer chose to record.202 Another Member who seems to have never allowed his lack of a formal education to interfere with his duty to speak up in Parliament was the Barnstaple merchant John Delbridge. Described by Laud in the 1630s as ‘a great Parliament-man’,203 Delbridge often spoke to effect in the parliaments of the 1620s, particularly on matters concerning trade.

If the lack of an education was not necessarily a handicap, a good schooling was no guarantee of oratorical ability either. Indeed, some of the most vocal lawyer-Members were not highly regarded as speakers by their colleagues. The Cambridge educated Gray’s Inn barrister Nicholas Fuller, who failed to appreciate the oratorical skills of Sir Francis Bacon, was lampooned by some of his colleagues in about 1607 as being ‘fuller of devotion than eloquence’. The future attorney-general William Noye was dismissed as ‘no great orator’ by James Howell, who like Noye served in the 1628-9 assembly.204 Nor was it only well educated lawyers who might struggle to impress. Sir Ralph Winwood spent several years teaching at Cambridge before he first entered Parliament in 1614. Although his maiden speech was ‘generally well allowed’ by those who heard it, ‘the manner of [his] delivery was somewhat strange, being in a kind of academical tune’.205 Eleven years later another former university academic, Sir Robert Naunton, discovered to his cost that ‘the cold rhetoric of the schools was not that moving eloquence which does affect a Parliament’ after he seconded the chancellor of the Exchequer’s motion for supply. Despite having served as public orator at Cambridge, Naunton found that ‘his labour was more than his success’, at least according to Sir John Eliot. His preamble was far too long and at one point he employed a figure of speech that many of his listeners found ‘preposterous’.206

Nonetheless, many of the best speakers in the House – such as Bacon, Sir Edwin Sandys, Sir Edward Coke, Sir John Eliot, Sir Dudley Digges and Sir Robert Phelips (whom Sir John Oglander remembered as ‘the best orator I ever heard’)207 – had certainly enjoyed the benefit of a good education. What marked out these men in particular was not merely the insightful and pithy nature of their observations but the elegance and learning that they also brought to bear. Sir Edward Coke greatly admired Sir Dudley Digges because the latter’s speeches were always ‘aperte, distincte, ornateque, dicere perspicue et breviter’.208

Those who captivated the House tended to garnish their speeches with epithets, maxims and witty stories. Sir Humphrey May was considered worth listening to because ‘he was never without store’ of apophthegms.209 In 1606 Sir John Savile delighted his listeners by concluding ‘with a merry conceit’, while the Commons ‘laughed greatly’ with pleasure after Sir Henry Poole ended one of his speeches with an amusing reference to a bishop.210 The best storyteller in the House by far was Sir Edward Coke. In February 1621, while considering whether it was permissible to allow a woman to be heard at the bar of the House, Coke regaled his listeners with the tale of St. Bernard, who once paid a visit to a church in Germany. As the saintly friar was kneeling in prayer, ‘our Lady’s image cried out in a small voice “Welcome Bernard, welcome”, whereupon Bernard replied ‘Peace, Madam … you mistake, for it is not lawful for a woman to speak in a congregation’.211 The following month Coke again delighted his audience, which included Prince Charles, by recounting an anecdote concerning a friar who was so appalled by what he found in Rome that he refused to preach. Before launching into this particular story however, Coke inquired whether his listeners were tired of hearing him talk, whereupon Charles replied, ‘I am never weary of hearing you, you do so well mix pleasant things with these sad and serious matters’.212 Not everyone appreciated humour in a speech. Sir Francis Kynaston, who sat in 1621 and did not much like Coke, deplored those who ‘speak to move laughter’ on the grounds that laughter was ‘a thing very ill beseeming the serious gravity of so great an assembly’.213

Those whose speeches were well received were customarily applauded with expressions of ‘well moved’.214 During the first few weeks of the 1621 Parliament, Sir Edward Coke reportedly won ‘a general applause’ for the lead he gave during the free speech debates, and on 12 February some of his listeners reacted to one suggestion with the words ‘a good motion’.215 In May 1628 the Commons congratulated Sir Henry Marten and John Glanville ‘with acclamation and putting off hats’ for speaking so well at a conference with the Lords earlier that morning.216

Although those who spoke might hope to impress their listeners with their erudition, elegance and wit, they naturally also expected to persuade. No matter how clever or humorous its content, a speech that failed to shape opinion or change minds ultimately failed in its objective. In May 1610 Sir Francis Bacon sought to convince the Commons to set aside the wording of a message to the king suggested by Sir Robert Harley, but his ‘reasons and persuasion (though delivered by an excellent speaker and with all advantage that wit, words or eloquence could add to them)’ are said to have ‘moved the House no whit’.217

Many Members undoubtedly entered the chamber impervious to the arguments of their opponents, but some, particularly those least well informed about the issues under discussion, appear to have approached debate with an open mind. During the 1606 debates on the legality of impositions, Sir John Savile, whose lack of anything more than a rudimentary legal training inclined him to listen carefully to the lawyer-Members, declared that he had been ‘almost transported to the other opinion’ by Bacon, but on hearing the counter-arguments he had ‘further considered the matter’.218 Another Member who seems to have listened to his colleagues before making up his mind was Sir Francis Nethersole. Speaking during the debate on the Crown’s right to arrest Loan refusers, Nethersole told the House in March 1628 that ‘until I heard Mr Solicitor I was inclining the other way’.219

Those who cared to listen to their colleagues sometimes had their minds changed. ‘I was for the perfect Union’, announced Sir Robert Wingfield in May 1607, ‘but he that spake last except three yesterday hath seduced me’.220 In May 1614, after hearing it argued that the Commons should complain to the Lords rather than the king about the offensive remarks uttered by Bishop Neile, William Hakewill declared that he was now ‘converted’.221 Fourteen years later Sir John Eliot urged the House to resolve itself into a grand committee because, were he to change his mind during the course of debate ‘upon other men’s reasons’, as often happened, he would then be free to express his revised opinion.222

It was not unusual for a Member who wished to address the Commons to consult some of his friends who were fellow Members before doing so, ‘especially such men as are gracious with the House’, in order that they might second him.223 Some of these gatherings were evidently quite large and were concerned not merely with individual speeches but the whole topic of debate. ‘In ancient times’, declared the veteran Member Edward Alford in 1628, ‘14 of us or more usually went privately and had conference together what was fit to be moved’. Like Alford, Sir Edward Coke saw nothing wrong with these extra-parliamentary meetings, as private conference between Members ‘will add to any man’s judgment’ and was entirely lawful. However, during the 1620s, as the Crown struggled with increasing lack of success to control the Commons’ agenda, such meetings were liable to be construed as conspiracy, as the Privy Council clerk Sir William Beecher observed in 1628. For Alford, and doubtless for many of his colleagues too, the suggestion that there was something improper about Members meeting to plan debate was intolerable. Were they to be denied the right to discuss parliamentary matters among themselves outside the Commons they would, in effect, be prevented from speaking effectively inside the Commons, which would ‘take away parliaments’.224 If nothing else, this fear demonstrates that, in the early seventeenth century, the subjects that Members discussed outside the chamber were probably just as important as those they debated within.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush

End Notes

  • 1. Russell, PEP, p. xviii.
  • 2. For a discussion of this subject, see Chapter 8.
  • 3. State Trials ed. T. Howell, ii. 487, repr. in Constitutional Docs. 262.
  • 4. Parl. Debates 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 103-9; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 221-4.
  • 5. Harl. 389, ff. 67v, 70-1.
  • 6. J. Morrill, ‘Reconstructing the Hist. of the Early Stuart Parls.’, Archives, xxi. 67-72 and ‘Paying One’s D’Ewes’, PH, xiv. 179-86. For a spirited rejoinder, see M. Jansson, ‘Dues Paid’, PH, xv. 215-20. For a recent useful discussion of this subject, see D. Colclough, Freedom of Speech in Early Stuart Eng. 127-30.
  • 7. Parl., Pols. and Elections 1604-48 ed. C.R. Kyle (Cam. Soc. 5th ser. xvii), 4-5.
  • 8. Russell, PEP p. xviii.
  • 9. Hooker’s Order and Usage, 151.
  • 10. Salop RO, 6001/290, entry of 25 Mar. 1603.
  • 11. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 429; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 210; CD 1621, ii. 526.
  • 12. Bowyer Diary, 80.
  • 13. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 210.
  • 14. Bowyer Diary, 244.
  • 15. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 144.
  • 16. Ibid. 433. For a more detailed discussion of notions of representation during this period, see Chapter 14.
  • 17. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 91.
  • 18. J. Scott, Berwick-upon-Tweed, 473.
  • 19. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 402-3.
  • 20. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 171.
  • 21. Add. 34218, f. 21v.
  • 22. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 279.
  • 23. Procs. 1626, iii. 236.
  • 24. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 122.
  • 25. CD 1629, p .33.
  • 26. Holles 1624, p. 90.
  • 27. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 432.
  • 28. SP14/1/48.
  • 29. Astudiaeth o Fywyd a Gwaith Siams Dwnn (c.1570-c.1660), Cywyddr o Fetws Cedewain yn Sir Drefaldwyn ed. D.H. Evans, ii. 128.
  • 30. CD 1628, ii. 307.
  • 31. CD 1621, ii. 21, 95; Bowyer Diary, 80. See also Christopher Neville’s speech of 17 Mar. 1621: CD 1621, ii. 240.
  • 32. Neale, 396.
  • 33. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 317.
  • 34. CD 1628, ii. 65.
  • 35. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 421.
  • 36. Procs. 1628, vi. 183.
  • 37. Bowyer Diary, 84. On Yelverton’s decision to cooperate with the Crown in Parliament, for which he was widely derided as a turncoat, see Chapter 13.
  • 38. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 373.
  • 39. Bowyer Diary, 259.
  • 40. Procs. 1625, p. 405.
  • 41. For a fuller discussion of this subject, see Chapter 14.
  • 42. CD 1628, iv. 248, 260.
  • 43. GL, ms 5441/5, unfol.
  • 44. Procs. 1625, pp. 553, 712.
  • 45. Procs. 1626, iii. 205. The vice chamberlain of the Household, Sir Dudley Carleton, proposed adding a further clause regarding ‘promises of preferment’: ibid. 206.
  • 46. CD 1628, iii. 537.
  • 47. Bowyer Diary, 196n. For Fuller’s views on eloquence, see below.
  • 48. CJ, i. 209b; CD 1628, iii. 427-8.
  • 49. Neale, Elizabethan House of Commons, 397: ‘seven or eight speeches were a goodly number’ at a bill reading, and ‘eighteen touched high-water mark’.
  • 50. Notestein, House of Commons 1604-10, p. 2.
  • 51. HP Commons 1558-1603, i. 78, 82, 85, 88, 91, 95, 98.
  • 52. This figure has been calculated by referring to the index to Procs. 1625, which records every known speaker apart from Thomas Lane, whom the indexer has omitted in error.
  • 53. Figures calculated from the indexes of Procs. 1614 (Commons) and CD 1628.
  • 54. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 238.
  • 55. For a discussion of meetings between individual Members of the Commons outside Parliament, see below.
  • 56. Bowyer Diary, 131.
  • 57. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 59v. cf. CJ, i. 680a, which states, incorrectly, that Gooch was obliged to withdraw.
  • 58. CJ, i. 333b.
  • 59. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 330.
  • 60. T. Smith, De Republica Anglorum, 82; Hooker’s Order and Usage, 190. On remaining bareheaded in committee, see CD 1621, vi. 352.
  • 61. In December 1601, however, Francis Moore refused to yield to Richard Martin, who had stood up before him: Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 459.
  • 62. CJ, i. 508a.
  • 63. Ibid. 197a, 232a, 564a; Foster, ‘Speaking in the House of Commons’, 54. See also Strateman Sims, ‘Policies in Parls.’, 51. Sir John Lowther, writing in 1624, thought that the matter of who should speak first could be resolved either by the Speaker or a majority in the House: ‘Lowther 1624’, p. 4.
  • 64. CD 1621, iv. 196-7.
  • 65. Ibid. ii. 235.
  • 66. Smith, 82. See also Lambarde’s Notes, 63 and CJ, i. 589b.
  • 67. M.A.R. Graves, ‘The Management of the Elizabethan House of Commons: the Council’s ‘Men of Business’’’, PH, ii. 15, 33; CJ, i. 156b.
  • 68. Foster, ‘Speaking in the House of Commons’, 52-3; CJ, i. 841b.
  • 69. Strateman Sims, ‘Policies in Parls.’, 48.
  • 70. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 448.
  • 71. Sir Thomas Smith thought a Member was entitled to speak once every day on the same subject, but in June 1604 the Commons ruled that he could not: Smith, 82; CJ, i. 997a.
  • 72. Bowyer Diary, 66-7.
  • 73. CD 1621, iii. 11; vi. 343.
  • 74. CJ, i. 589b; Procs. 1626, ii. 262.
  • 75. CJ, i. 630b; CD 1628, iii. 512, 515. For a further example, see CJ, i. 475b.
  • 76. The two Members who each spoke twice during May did not go unnoticed, but the clerk of the Commons failed to enter an order formulated in response to their behaviour in his Journal: Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 369. For Caesar, see CJ, i. 448a-b.
  • 77. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 296; CJ, i. 660a-661a. For further striking evidence that the rule restricting Members to a single speech was sometimes disregarded, see the exchanges between Sir John Eliot and Sir Robert Pye on 22 Mar. 1626, which were conducted while the Speaker was in the chair: Procs. 1626, ii. 342.
  • 78. Procs. 1626, iii. 243.
  • 79. CD 1621, iii. 168.
  • 80. Procs. in the Opening Session of the Long Parl. ed. M. Jansson, iii. 550.
  • 81. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 212. See also CD 1628, ii. 421.
  • 82. P. Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric: Theory and Practice, 58-9.
  • 83. Bowyer Diary, 197. See also ‘Lowther 1624’, p. 4.
  • 84. CJ, i. 423a-b. None of the surviving diaries shed any light on this debate, which receives only the barest mention in the Journal.
  • 85. Lambarde’s Notes, 64; Foster, ‘Speaking in the House of Commons’, 52.
  • 86. For the not entirely convincing claim that long parliamentary speeches were ‘usually delivered by a government speaker, often on ceremonial occasions’, see Mack, 216.
  • 87. CJ, i. 281b; Bowyer Diary, 49, 70, 254.
  • 88. CD 1621, ii. 129n11.
  • 89. HMC Downshire, ii. 240; Foster, 52 n.3.
  • 90. ‘The Parliamentary Pprs. of Nicholas Ferrar’ ed. D.R. Ransome, in Cam. Misc. XXXIII (Cam. Soc. 5th ser. vii), 23.
  • 91. HP Commmons 1558-1601, i. 100. For an example, see Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 433.
  • 92. CJ, i. 336a; Procs. 1628, vi. 205.
  • 93. Procs. 1625, p. 548.
  • 94. Parl. Debates 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 53.
  • 95. Graves, ‘Management of the Elizabethan House of Commons’, 30.
  • 96. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 198; CD 1628, iii. 204.
  • 97. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 143; CJ, i. 743a; CD 1628, ii. 190.
  • 98. CJ, i. 199b, 973a, 1041a, note a.
  • 99. Bowyer Diary, 279-80.
  • 100. Ibid. 1, 62, 224; Winwood’s Memorials, iii. 119.
  • 101. Procs. 1625, p. 516.
  • 102. Chamberlain Letters, i. 532. Remarkably, this was Wotton’s first speech in Parliament.
  • 103. Lambarde’s Notes, 55.
  • 104. Bowyer Diary, 345.
  • 105. Ibid. 207-8. For an example of a reporter who seems to have used his notes, see CJ, i. 1032b.
  • 106. Coke, Fourth Part of the Institutes of the Laws of Eng. 3; CD 1628, ii. 107, 132.
  • 107. CJ, i. 1020a.
  • 108. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 219.
  • 109. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 320.
  • 110. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 114; CJ, i. 432b.
  • 111. CD 1621, ii. 117.
  • 112. D’Ewes, Jnls. of all the Parls. 474a, 475b.
  • 113. Procs. 1625, pp. 507-8.
  • 114. Bowyer Diary, 16; CJ, i. 357b; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 208.
  • 115. T. Fuller, Ephemeris Parliamentaria (1654), preface.
  • 116. CD 1628, iv. 66.
  • 117. Bowyer Diary, 102n, 193n.
  • 118. Ephemeris Parliamentaria, preface.
  • 119. For the drafts and fair copy of the speech, see SP16/4/23-5. Coke cannot have drafted his speech any earlier because Buckingham did not decide to press for a grant of additional supply until he consulted his closest followers sometime after midnight on the night of 7/8 July. For this meeting see R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 246.
  • 120. CD 1621, ii. 83 n.11, citing Harl. 7609, f. 128.
  • 121. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 92; Procs. 1625, pp. 666-7. For a further example of a speech prepared by Montagu that seems not to have been given, see ‘CD 1604-7’, 93-5.
  • 122. BIHR, xliii. 54; CJ, i. 172a, 177b, 948a. It is not clear whether chairmen of committees enjoyed the same power. In March 1626 Sir Robert Harley, speaking in grand committee, was interrupted by his fellow committee members, who cried ‘to the point!’, rather than by the chairman: Procs. 1626, ii. 378.
  • 123. Bowyer Diary, 224.
  • 124. CD 1628, ii. 434-5.
  • 125. CJ, i. 247b-48a, 999a.
  • 126. Bowyer Diary, 345.
  • 127. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 75, 148.
  • 128. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 142.
  • 129. Bodl., Tanner 391, p. 108; Holles 1624, p. 24.
  • 130. CJ, i. 475b.
  • 131. Foster, ‘Speaking in the House of Commons’, 52.
  • 132. CJ, i. 152b, 243b, 244a, 995b; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 82.
  • 133. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 354. Three months later John Bond occasioned ‘much hissing and spitting’ after he delivered a speech described by the clerk of the Commons as ‘impertinent’: CJ, i. 423b.
  • 134. Winwood’s Memorials, iii. 119.
  • 135. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 150, 157.
  • 136. CD 1621, iv. 53.
  • 137. ‘Spring 1624’, pp. 55-6. During the same debate Sir George More was interrupted by the noise ‘of some that misliked his tediousness’: ibid. 43; ‘Lowther 1624’, f. 16.
  • 138. Smith, 82-3. For the use of the form ‘the gentleman that spoke last’, see Bowyer Diary, 194, 197n; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 331; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 340. For an instance of the Speaker being referred to as ‘Sir’, see Bowyer Diary, 332.
  • 139. CJ, i. 285a, 999b.
  • 140. Procs. 1628, vi. 183.
  • 141. NLW, ms 5059E/1209.
  • 142. Bowyer Diary, 80.
  • 143. CD 1621, iii. 433. Horsey had directed this same jibe at Sir Anthony Cope in 1614, when he had apparently gone unpunished: Chamberlain Letters, i. 534
  • 144. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 370. However, after Sir Edward Hoby and the Speaker expressed alarm, the personal attacks on Neile were halted: ibid. 371.
  • 145. Procs. 1626, iii. 237, 240-1.
  • 146. CD 1621, iv. 11. For a discussion of the Commons’ anxiety at this time to do nothing that might cause the king to dissolve the Parliament prematurely, see Chapter 13.
  • 147. Procs. 1625, p. 383; Foster, ‘Speaking in the House of Commons’, 46. See also Smith, 82.
  • 148. CD 1621, iv. 38.
  • 149. Procs. 1626, iii. 353-4, 357.
  • 150. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 316.
  • 151. CD 1621, ii. 61; CJ, i. 518a.
  • 152. CJ, i. 162b.
  • 153. Procs. 1625, pp. 413, 418.
  • 154. CJ, i. 335b.
  • 155. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 350.
  • 156. CJ, i. 235a. For a discussion of the Commons’ attempts to discuss matters of religion, see Chapter 1.
  • 157. Russell, PEP, 111.
  • 158. Procs. 1626, ii. 131.
  • 159. CJ, i. 978b. See also ibid. 517a. However, in this particular case it was the definition of treason rather than any other aspect of the crime which was deemed to lie beyond the scope of the Commons. Following the Gunpowder Plot, whose intended victims included Members themselves as well as the king and his family, the Commons, without any invitation from James, drew up a set of articles designed to prevent future Catholic plots: ibid. 262b-3a; Bowyer, 19-21.
  • 160. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 159.
  • 161. Add. 32032B, f. 352.
  • 162. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 474. Hastings seems to have habitually pointed at those with whom he disagreed: ibid. 426, 448.
  • 163. CD 1621, v. 58.
  • 164. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 63; Procs. 1628, vi. 183, 190.
  • 165. Sir Baptist Hicks thought that Sheppard’s ‘actions [were] worse than his words’. CD 1621, iv. 53; CJ, i. 524a.
  • 166. Procs. 1625, p. 548.
  • 167. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 476-7.
  • 168. Procs. 1628, vi. 245-6.
  • 169. CD 1629, p. 240.
  • 170. Hargrave 195, f. 19v.
  • 171. CJ, i. 719b.
  • 172. CD 1628, ii. 198.
  • 173. D’Ewes Diary 1622-4 ed. Bourcier, 191-2.
  • 174. Procs. 1626, iv. 272.
  • 175. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 94.
  • 176. CJ, i. 599a. See also the comments of Sir Edward Coke six months later: CD 1621, vi. 342-3.
  • 177. SP16/19/107.
  • 178. CJ, i. 197a; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 372-3.
  • 179. Bowyer Diary, 340.
  • 180. Foster, ‘Speaking in the House of Commons’, 52.
  • 181. Lambarde’s Notes, 56.
  • 182. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 346.
  • 183. Bowyer Diary, 2, 64, 227, 377-8; CJ, i. 971b. See also Sir Henry Unton’s speech of 7 Mar. 1593 in favour of three subsidies, which one diarist described as ‘far off’ and not heard by some, and also Humphrey Winch’s complaint of 5 Dec. 1601 that the first of four points made by Sir Roger Owen ‘I heard not’: Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 106, 437.
  • 184. Bowyer Diary, 377.
  • 185. Add. 23229B. I am grateful for this reference to Michelle O’Callaghan.
  • 186. CD 1628, ii. 516.
  • 187. Cent. Kent. Stud. U1475/U77, ‘The Arguments used in Parliament’, 1628.
  • 188. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, iv. 93.
  • 189. Procs. 1626, ii. 308.
  • 190. CD 1628, iii. 542.
  • 191. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 137-8.
  • 192. Parl. Debates 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 127.
  • 193. CJ, i. 358a.
  • 194. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 318, 322.
  • 195. Cabala Sive Scrinia Sacra (1691), p. 197.
  • 196. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 19; Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, vii. 179.
  • 197. Procs. 1610, ii. 98.
  • 198. Colclough, 38-9.
  • 199. For the nature and extent of rhetorical training in both grammar schools and the universities, see Mack, 32-45, 51.
  • 200. J. Hoskins, Directions for Speech and Style ed. H.H. Hudson, 2.
  • 201. Gawdy Letters ed. Jeayes, 143; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 15v; Procs. 1610, ii. 92; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 82; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 191; Procs. 1626, iii. 240-1.
  • 202. Bowyer Diary, 60, 94.
  • 203. LPL, ms 943, f. 181.
  • 204. Add. 34218, f. 20; J. Howell, Epistolae Ho-Elianae (1737), p. 256.
  • 205. Chamberlain Letters, i. 523.
  • 206. Procs. 1625, p. 555. The author of Bedford ms 197 also thought Naunton’s preamble too long: ibid. 447.
  • 207. IoW RO, OG/BB53. The author of the 1628 libel on Parliament seems to have referred to Phelips as ‘roaring Robin’: Procs. 1628, vi. 246.
  • 208. CD 1621, ii. 179.
  • 209. Procs. 1625, p. 539.
  • 210. Bowyer Diary, 120, 155-6.
  • 211. CD 1621,v. 8, 254.
  • 212. Ibid. ii. 230-1.
  • 213. Lansd. 213, f. 168.
  • 214. Pvte. Journals of the Long Parl. 3 Jan.-5 Mar. 1642, p. 359.
  • 215. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 342; CD 1621, ii. 58.
  • 216. CJ, i. 903a.
  • 217. Procs. 1610, ii. 92.
  • 218. Bowyer Diary, 120.
  • 219. CD 1628, ii. 198.
  • 220. Bowyer Diary, 284.
  • 221. CJ, i. 499a. Hakewill was particularly willing to admit publicly to having changed his mind: see CD 1629, pp. 91, 93. For a statement by Sir Edward Sackville that he too had been ‘converted’ during the course of a debate, see CJ, i. 558a.
  • 222. CD 1628, iii. 285.
  • 223. Strateman Sims, ‘Policies in Parls.’, 47.
  • 224. CD 1628, iv. 65-7, 75. For a more detailed examination of these extra-parliamentary meetings, see Chapter 13.