XIV. Representation and Accountability

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

Addressing the assembled electors for Cheshire in early February 1624 the county sheriff, Sir Richard Grosvenor, reminded his listeners that the task of choosing knights of the shire was a serious business, as ‘we put into their hands in trust our lives, our states and that which should be dearer to us than both, our religion’.1 As elected representatives, Members of the Commons were both the mouthpieces of their constituents and the guardians of their interests. Throughout the course of a Commons’ career spanning twenty-nine years and six parliaments, Sir Henry Poole of Kemble in Wiltshire never lost sight of his duty to promote and defend the interests of his constituents, particularly where they related to the economically vital clothing industry. As one of the Members for Cricklade in 1606, for instance, he promoted the reading of a bill to regulate the wages of spinsters and weavers, and in 1614, with the clothing industry in a state of crisis, he told the House in his capacity as one of the knights for Wiltshire ‘that the clothiers for his country complain they can have no vent for their cloths at any reasonable rate’.2

In most constituencies it was assumed that Members acquired their representative function automatically on election, but in some urban boroughs it was felt that additional authority was needed. The corporation of Hastings habitually issued commissions to its newly elected Members granting them ‘full power and authority’ to ‘do and consent unto such things and matters as at the said Parliament (by God’s permission) shall be ordained’.3 In January 1621 the corporation of Kingston-upon-Hull, despite having held its parliamentary election ten days earlier, conferred upon John Lister ‘authority to do any business he thinks meet for the town’s good as he shall find occasion’.4 Boroughs that considered it necessary to bestow upon their elected representatives the right to act on their behalf were probably anxious to ensure that those chosen did not assume that their powers were limited merely to listening and reporting back. However, they may also have been acting in response to the sheriff’s precept, which was sometimes worded in such a way that it appeared to separate the process of election from the act of empowering Members to consent on behalf of their constituents. The warrant addressed to the corporation of Leicester by the sheriff of Leicestershire in April 1625, for instance, required the corporation, once it had proceeded to an election, to ensure that the Members chosen ‘have full power and sufficient authority ... to do and consent to such things’ as the Parliament decided to enact.5

Although the Commons consisted exclusively of elected Members, all of whom were capable of giving or withholding their consent, many aspects of their role as representatives remain to be explored. Who precisely did the Commons represent? Did Members speak for the whole country or were they in fact the representatives of sectional interests? To what extent were the activities of Members determined and monitored by those who elected them, and how were the demands of constituents balanced against those of the king, who summoned parliaments primarily to serve his own interests rather than those of his subjects? These and other, associated questions are matters to which we must now turn.

A representative assembly?

Among its Members there was a widespread belief that the House of Commons represented the people of England and Wales. The authors of the 1604 Form of Apology and Satisfaction of the Commons claimed that the common people, amounting to ‘many millions’, were ‘representatively present’ in the lower House and in 1606 Robert Bowyer announced that in the Commons ‘all the realm is intended present’. 6 In 1614 the lower House told James that the knights and burgesses of the Commons were ‘credited with the power and voices of all the counties and great cities of your kingdom’, and in 1621 Sir Edward Coke declared that ‘we serve here for thousands, and ten thousands’.7 It was because the Commons believed that it spoke for the common people that at moments of political crisis it sometimes tried to claim moral superiority over the Lords. During the April 1628 debates on the liberties of the subject, for instance, finding the two Houses at variance, Coke appealed to the peers ‘in the name of the commons of England, represented in us’.8 Since the Lords spoke only for themselves rather than the people at large, it was clearly felt appropriate that the peers should defer to the Commons before discarding legislation designed to benefit the commonweal. In December 1621 both Coke and Sir Nathaniel Rich expressed outrage after the Lords set aside the monopolies bill ‘without conference with us’, for ‘monopolies do touch or concern very little the Lords or their liberties, but only the poor people’.9

It was because they represented others that Members of the Commons, unlike the Lords, were unable to appoint proxies or waive their parliamentary privilege. When Sir Simeon Steward informed the House in April 1628 that he had entered into a £500 bond promising not to claim privilege, having received a subpoena from the attorney-general, he was told by Coke that ‘a knight or burgess cannot renounce his privilege ... because he is trusted for many thousands’.10 The idea that individual Members, being representatives, were unable to delegate their authority to others was equally applicable to the House as a whole. After Sir Henry Vane proposed in December 1621 that a select committee be appointed to draft a declaration stating that the House’s liberties were its inheritance, he was opposed by Coke, who suggested instead that the task be entrusted to a committee of the whole House, ‘because we represent the commons of England [and] can make no proxy’.11 A Commons bereft of a large number of its Members was widely felt to lack the legitimacy of a well-attended House.12 During the subsidy debate of 1593, Sir Robert Wroth called for the release of a number of arrested Members on the grounds that their ‘countries’ might complain if their representatives were not present to assent to a grant.13

The view that the Commons spoke for the common man has not gained universal acceptance. To the Marxist historian Christopher Hill, the early Stuart House of Commons ‘represented not the people of England but a small fraction of them’. As Hill pointed out, the Commons, being mainly composed of gentry, lawyers and merchants, actually consisted of a cross-section of the ruling class.14 These men owed their seats not to the landless classes, who were unenfranchised, but to a relatively small body of voters who, like themselves, were property owners. Indeed, as we have seen, perhaps only a quarter of the adult male population enjoyed the franchise.15

However, early seventeenth century Parliament-men saw no contradiction between the narrowness of the House’s composition and the broadness of its claim to represent the interests of the common people. Sir Francis Bacon’s assertion in February 1610 that ‘we be the gentry’ is often quoted, but less well remarked is the fact that Bacon went on to remind the House of its representative functions and of its duty to speak up for ‘farmers etc.’16 In 1601 Bacon’s fellow lawyer William Hakewill observed that each Member should set aside his own interests and, metaphorically speaking, step into the shoes of his constituents, so that ‘if the matter which is spoken of toucheth the poor, then think me a poor man he that speaks’.17 This injunction was, of course, self-serving, since it dispensed with the need to alter the composition of the Commons. However, in the early seventeenth century few members of the ruling classes had any qualms about asserting that they were better qualified, both by birth and education, to represent the interests of their social inferiors. Besides, to lawyers, accustomed to putting a case on behalf of their clients, the fact that the Commons was drawn exclusively from the propertied classes was no reason to assume that its Members were incapable of representing the lower orders. On some matters, particularly that of purveyance, the burden of which fell disproportionately hard upon the poorer members of society, Members sometimes genuinely believed that the views they expressed were indistinguishable from those of their constituents. On presenting to the king the petition asking to be allowed to proceed by bill against purveyance in April 1604, Sir Francis Bacon assured James that ‘in this grievance ... we shall most humbly desire Your Majesty to conceive, that Your Majesty doth not hear our opinion or senses, but the very groans and complaints themselves of your Commons’.18

One of the few contemporaries to question the view that the Commons spoke for the people at large was James I. Following the disastrous opening session of his reign James was anxious to avoid giving the impression that, in quarrelling with the House of Commons, he had fallen out with his new subjects. In his prorogation speech of 7 July 1604, the king conceded that Members of the Commons were representatives, but he denied that this meant they were, in effect, the shadows of his people. It was impossible for them ‘to know all that would be propounded here’, he declared, much less ‘all those answers that you would make to all propositions’. Consequently, he added, ‘I account not all that to be done by the commons of the land which hath been done by you’.19

This idea – that the Commons was apt to express views that were not necessarily held in the country at large – was calculated to enrage the authors of the Form of Apology, who claimed that any wrongs done to the Commons would ‘rebound upon the whole land’. It was also designed to console a king whose international standing and sense of pride had been wounded by his public disagreements with his first Parliament. It was, moreover, a belief to which James clung for the rest of his reign, for in his opening speech to the 1621 Parliament James warned the Commons not to second-guess those whom they represented by inventing grievances where none existed. This note of caution was seconded by Lord Chancellor St. Alban (the former Sir Francis Bacon), who bluntly told the assembled Members that ‘you are to represent the people; you are not to personate them’.20 The idea that the Commons was at one stage removed from the minds of the people rather than the people themselves is also to be found in comments made in April 1621 by Heneage Finch, a future Speaker of the Commons. Addressing the taxpayers of Southwark, Finch, then recorder of London, observed that ‘in them [the Commons] His Majesty beholds you as in a glass; here upon the matter he sees you face to face’.21

There was one section of the population, aside from the peerage, whom the Commons could not with justice be said to represent. During the middle of the fourteenth century the lesser clergy had forfeited their right to sit in the Commons. Their continued exclusion was justified on the grounds that they had their own representative assemblies, in the form of the Convocations of Canterbury and York. Since the lesser clergy were deemed to have no need of representation in the Commons they were not entitled, unless they were freeholders in their own right, to participate in parliamentary elections.22 Moreover, because the clergy had their own representative assemblies the Commons had no jurisdiction over them. When the House considered taking action against the vicar of Witney in May 1628, Sir Edward Coke announced that it could not because, all the clergy of England being ‘present or representative in the Convocation House’, he ‘belongs to another Parliament House, as it were’.23

Among the lower clergy there were clearly some who resented being kept at arms length by the Commons. On being admonished by the committee for privileges ‘for being too busy for a man of his profession’ in the matter of the 1624 Bletchingley election, Dr. Harris, the vicar of Bletchingley, ‘took occasion to say that no honest man would be of the mind that churchmen ought to have no voice in elections to the Commons House of Parliament; and that he would never more come into the pulpit if they should be denied to intermeddle and give voices in such business’.24 During James’s reign both Dr. John Cowell, professor of civil law at Cambridge, and William Swaddon, archdeacon of Worcester, attacked the continued exclusion of the clergy from the Commons.25 It is not hard to understand the reason, as the House of Lords never regarded membership of Convocation as grounds for excluding the bishops. Besides, in the wake of the 1604 Canons the Commons proved perfectly willing to embrace the cause of nonconformist ministers. However, the existing arrangement clearly suited the Commons, for if the lesser clergy were not represented they could hardly obstruct the Commons in its repeated attempts to reform the Church.

It was not just the lesser clergy who were unrepresented by a House that purported to speak for all the commoners of England and Wales. As a palatine jurisdiction exempt from parliamentary taxation and administered by the local bishop rather than the Crown, County Durham was not entitled to send Members to Westminster. On the face of it, this meant that the shire occupied a position comparable to that of the newly founded colony of Virginia, which was also not entitled to representation. When Secretary Calvert remarked of Virginia in May 1621 that it would be ‘prejudicious’ to bind the colonists ‘by a law made here when none of them are here’, he might almost have been speaking about County Durham except that Durham, unlike Virginia, was subject to laws made at Westminster. 26

Prior to 1614 County Durham’s lack of parliamentary representation seems to have been a matter that the Commons preferred not to consider. However, the subject became inescapable after 1610, when for the first time the county was included in the Subsidy Act. Over the ensuing three parliaments various attempts were made to enfranchise the county, but for reasons that are discussed elsewhere each ended in failure. 27 The closest the county came to direct representation was in 1621, when Ralph Fetherstonhaugh, the squire of Stanhope Hall in County Durham, came in for the Northumberland borough of Morpeth at a by-election. The continued lack of representation for County Durham was not merely unsatisfactory but inconvenient. When the Commons ordered the knights of every shire to relay to the House the number of recusants in their respective counties in April 1624, it necessarily fell to the knights for Yorkshire and Northumberland to prepare and present the report on behalf of County Durham.28

If the exclusion of County Durham and the lesser clergy undermined the Commons’ claim to be the representative body of the kingdom, the same might also be said of Members’ attitude towards non-residence. By law each Member was meant to dwell in the constituency for which he sat, but in practice this requirement was widely disregarded. Indeed, many never set foot in the constituencies for which they were returned. Sir Edwin Sandys, who lived in east Kent, twice served for the Cornish borough of Penryn, but according to Thomas Scott of Canterbury, he ‘had never seen Penryn, nor knew the name of it’ before he was chosen.29 Likewise John Pym seems never to have visited his constituency of Tavistock, an omission which led one historian to conclude that ‘some Members of the Commons were not representatives in any sense recognisable today’.30

Many contemporaries certainly disapproved of the widespread practice of electing non-residents. In 1571 Thomas Atkins, sitting for Gloucester, declared that unless those chosen ‘know also our own homes’ they were ‘not to be trusted to conclude for our home affairs’. In 1626 Thomas Scott described the election of non-residents as an ‘abomination’ which, if it continued to grow ‘as it does’, would mean that ‘the commonwealth [and] the Church cannot long flourish’. Indeed, ‘the only way to prevent slavery and ruin’, he added, would be to elect residents rather than outsiders who cared little for the concerns of their constituents.31 Two years later one anonymous former Member complained that many in the Commons were ‘ignorant of the place they serve for’.32 In 1614 the freemen of the Devon coastal town of Dartmouth unanimously chose to elect townsmen rather than outsiders because, as the corporation explained to Henry Howard, earl of Northampton, ‘their grievances might be better made known and themselves thereof relieved’.33 However, a majority in the Commons never felt strongly enough about this issue to institute radical change. When a bill requiring the election of residents was laid before the Commons in 1606 it failed to proceed beyond a second reading.34

There were undoubtedly several reasons for this reluctance. First and foremost, perhaps, was self-interest: non-residents were hardly likely to press for change. When Serjeant Harris argued in November 1601 that the election of Sir John Harington for Rutland was void, Sir Edward Hoby remarked that ‘if you stand on that, I think there are few knights in this House lawfully chosen; for the words of the writ and statute are that he must be commorant within the county, which but few are’. Following this observation of an uncomfortable truth, the question of Harington’s residential status was swiftly dropped.35 Plainly, if only residents were to be chosen, many Members of the Commons, including some of the most able men in the House, would have found it impossible to find seats.

Self-interest was not, however, the only consideration. Many Members regarded the legal requirement as either irrelevant or of only secondary importance. Although a bill ‘for the validity of burgesses not resident’ failed to reach the statute book in 1571, a majority of Members, both then and later, appear to have agreed with Thomas Norton, who thought that a Member’s most important attribute was not his ability to represent his constituents but his capacity to serve ‘the whole body of the realm’.36 As Sir Edward Coke put it, ‘though one be chosen for one particular county or borough, yet when he is returned, and sits in Parliament, he serveth for the whole realm’.37 In addition, there seems to have been a widespread belief, outside as well as inside Westminster, that it was not only residents who were capable of serving their constituents. Edward Alford, who dwelt in Sussex, proved such an outstanding parliamentary representative for the Essex borough of Colchester that in 1625 its voters refused to consider choosing another.38 Indeed, few Members of the early Stuart House of Commons were more concerned with local affairs than Edward Alford. During the course of a long parliamentary career Alford, who owned property in Sussex, Surrey and London, served not only his Colchester constituents but also the interests of his various neighbours. These included the fishermen of Brighton, the tenants of the duchy of Cornwall’s manor of Shoreham, the prisoners of the Fleet prison and those living near the river Wey, all of whom approached him at one time or another for assistance.39

Just as many Members failed to take seriously the legal requirement regarding residence, so too many saw nothing improper about accepting seats from aristocratic patrons. On the surface, it was difficult to see how Members who owed their election to a noble patron could expect to be regarded as in any sense the representatives of their constituents. Shortly after Parliament assembled in 1628, one anonymous former Member complained that many men with seats in the Commons were ‘at the dispose of the Lords of the upper House’, several of whom, being lords lieutenant, allegedly intimidated boroughs with their power to demand men, weapons and horses to gain control of the election of burgesses.40 In 1659 Henry Neville of Billingbear, the son of the Jacobean knight for Berkshire, Sir Henry Neville, announced in the Commons that in their fathers’ times ‘there were so many blue coats’ in the lower House ‘as we could see no other colours there. Near twenty Parliament-men would wait upon one lord, to know how to demean themselves in the House of Commons’.41

There was certainly some truth behind these claims. Aristocratic patrons did indeed control many borough seats, either because they were the town’s high steward and could demand the right of nomination or because they possessed the power to help or hinder the townsmen’s interests. At Stafford in 1614 the lord privy seal, the earl of Northampton, was obliged with a seat even though one townsman claimed that it was ‘ordinary to deny noblemen’s letters’, because Northampton’s support was needed at Court to secure the grant of a charter against the opposition of the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, Richard Neile.42 During the early 1620s the corporation of Canterbury was so anxious to regain control of the city’s militia that it fell over backwards to accommodate the electoral wishes of the duke of Lennox and the earl of Montgomery, successive lords lieutenant of Kent, much to the disgust of the city resident Thomas Scott.43

It was also the case that Members of the lower House often flocked to the Lords to wait on their patrons. In July 1621 the Privy Council demanded to know from the 3rd earl of Southampton ‘whether, in the time of Parliament, some of the lower House did not usually come up into the committee chamber of the upper House, upon design and plot, to receive a direction from him what to do in their House’. In his reply Southampton, although he denied being involved in ‘any design or plot’, confessed that ‘some of the lower House came thither every day, sometimes to him, sometimes to others’, and that, like ‘everyone else’ in the Lords, he went out to speak with them ‘about what was doing in their House, and of other Parliament businesses’.44 In July 1625 the duke of Buckingham, horrified that the Commons had voted the king an insufficient grant of supply, summoned to him all his ‘privados’ with seats in the lower House ‘to receive instruction’ from him, or so Sir John Eliot claimed.45 The following year the clients of the 3rd earl of Pembroke appear to have acted in concert at the behest of their patron to bring about the impeachment of Buckingham.

It would nevertheless be a distortion to suggest that the Commons was populated with Members whose prime concern was to take instructions from their aristocratic patrons rather than their constituents. While some, like the Barnstaple Member Thomas Hinson, receiver-general of the 3rd earl of Bath, undoubtedly fell into this category, many others were not invariably disposed to follow the directions of their patrons. Take the case of Serjeant Francis Moore. During the first Jacobean Parliament Moore served as the Commons’ unofficial spokesman for Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, to whom he may have been distantly related. However, when Ellesmere clashed with the Commons over the Buckinghamshire election in 1604, Moore sided firmly with his colleagues in the lower House against his patron and the rest of the Privy Council, who threw their weight behind their colleague Sir John Fortescue. Indeed, he not only helped persuade the House to support the outlawed Sir Francis Goodwin rather than Fortescue but also argued that outlaws had previously been permitted to sit.46

Another cautionary tale concerns Sir John Eliot, who initially counted himself among the duke of Buckingham’s clients. During the course of the 1625 Parliament, Eliot became disenchanted with Buckingham, and on the morning of 8 July he spent two hours ‘at least’ in arguing with his patron over the wisdom of demanding additional supply from the Commons. On returning to the House later that morning Eliot, having privately resolved that in future ‘no respect of persons’ would induce him to ‘desert his country’, pointedly declined to support the duke’s spokesman for the subsidy, Sir John Coke.47 By the time of the next Parliament, in 1626, Eliot had entered into a loose alliance with Buckingham’s chief rival at Court, the 3rd earl of Pembroke, rather than continue his association with the duke.

Eliot was by no means the only Member who was prepared to go only so far in accommodating the wishes of his aristocratic patron. During the early stages of the 1614 Parliament Sir James Perrot, Member for Haverfordwest, acted as a spokesman for his patron the earl of Pembroke, one of the chief architects of the Parliament. Pembroke hoped to induce the Commons to loosen its purse strings in return for various bills of grace, and consequently Perrot initially proved vigorous in promoting these measures. However, during the latter stages of the Parliament Perrot found it impossible to remain aloof from the controversy surrounding impositions, a subject which threatened to wreck the Parliament. On 3 June, after James threatened to dissolve the Parliament unless he received an immediate grant of supply, he launched into a bitter attack on the management of the royal finances. After observing that impositions were only needed because James squandered £70,000 each year on lavish Court pensions, he declared that unless royal overspending were curbed it was pointless to vote subsidies.48 This forthright speech signalled the breakdown of Perrot’s co-operation with Pembroke in Parliament and earned its author a summons before the Privy Council following the dissolution.

The cases of Moore, Eliot and Perrot demonstrate that peers often found it difficult, if not impossible, to control their friends and allies in the Commons, many of whom most assuredly had minds of their own. It was an inconvenient truth that had to be explained to the king early in his reign by Robert Cecil after James had rebuked Cecil for failing to control his troublesome kinsman Henry Yelverton.49 While there may have been peers who saw themselves as in some senses party leaders, responsible for issuing instructions to their followers in the Commons, others like Cecil were perfectly aware that many of their so-called clients, particularly those with considerable standing in the Commons, more closely resembled equals. During the course of his interrogation in 1621, Southampton revealingly remarked that he had spoken ‘ordinarily and familiarly’ to those Members of the Commons who came to see him. These words, though obviously intended to absolve the earl from the damaging charge of having issued instructions to his clients, also have about them the ring of truth, for chief among Southampton’s allies in the lower House was Sir Edwin Sandys, a man whom Southampton would have found it very difficult indeed to control. The nature of the relationship between the two is most easily discerned in respect of the Virginia Company, of which they were both members. In theory Southampton was head of the Company, having taken over from Sandys the previous year, but in reality Sandys remained the driving force in its affairs and continued to oversee its finances. In parliamentary business, quite as much as Virginia matters, it seems likely that it was Southampton who took his lead from Sandys rather than the other way around.

Just as those Members with close links to individual peers should not be dismissed as mere ciphers, so too it cannot be assumed that those with ties to aristocratic patrons were automatically precluded from representing their constituencies. In May 1614 the borough of Leicester wrote to both its Members requesting their support for all measures designed to prevent ‘depopulation and decay of tillage’ and to suppress the ‘brewing of strong ale and beer’,50 even though the senior Member, Sir Henry Rich, owed his seat to the 5th earl of Huntingdon. In 1621 the borough of Rye required John Angell to seek parliamentary assistance for the repair of the town’s harbour, even though it had been Lord Zouche, the duke of Lennox and Sir Thomas Edmondes who had recommended Angell to them.51 Other instances might easily be given of constituencies that expected the nominees of aristocratic patrons to serve their interests.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century the holding of government office, like the enjoyment of aristocratic patronage, was not regarded as incompatible with the demands of constituency representation. Senior officials with seats in the House were, of course, acutely aware that they served two masters, but either they saw no contradiction between their different responsibilities or they claimed to be able to steer a middle course between them. Speaking during the subsidy debate at Oxford in August 1625, for instance, Solicitor General Heath declared that, ‘having two capacities’, he would express himself ‘without partiality’.52 Far from regarding them as men of doubtful loyalty, many constituencies during the sixteenth century saw courtiers as useful sources of royal favour, and under Elizabeth privy councillors, almost without exception, could expect to command the premier county seat as a matter of course.

To a degree these attitudes survived into the early seventeenth century. As late as 1624 Kingston-upon-Hull elected the comptroller of the Household, Sir John Suckling, in the hope of gaining an advantage over nearby York, with which city it was in dispute over trading privileges. However, from the middle of James’s reign courtiers found themselves increasingly shunned. On 19 February 1614, the day on which election writs were issued, the king’s private secretary Sir Thomas Lake wrote from Newmarket to a member of the Council in London that James had heard ‘from some of his servants here who have laboured for places that they have received answer from gentlemen of the country of good quality that think all the shires are disposed to take care that none of His Majesty’s servants be chosen’. Lake added that James, alarmed that the Commons might turn out to be composed of men who ‘are not willing to have his servants in their company’, was now unsure whether to allow the Parliament to proceed.53 In the event James decided to stand by his decision, but shortly thereafter the Council was forced to intervene to prevent the Middlesex gentleman Sir Francis Darcy from contesting either of the Middlesex county seats, which it had earmarked for Lake and the chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Julius Caesar.54

Although the predicted electoral debacle failed to materialize, the number of Household officials returned to Westminster in 1614 was certainly considerably lower than in 1604.55 Moreover, when the Parliament met James discovered that reports of a general hostility towards courtiers were well founded. This was because there was a rumour that he was trying to pack the assembly with his own creatures and that a secret undertaking existed to manage the Commons in his interests. Within days of the opening of the session the Commons, ostensibly concerned to resolve the case of the attorney-general alone, debated whether the king’s servants were entitled to sit. It was claimed that ‘anciently none so much as wore the king’s livery, or had any pension from the king’ had been allowed admittance, and that under Edward III one man had been unseated because he was the queen’s servant. James was thoroughly alarmed, and subsequently described this turn of events as ‘an ill sign’.56

Following the dissolution of the 1614 Parliament the hostility towards courtiers increased. During the 1620s privy councillors were, by and large, excluded from county elections and were forced to look for borough seats instead. In December 1620 the electors of Middlesex rejected Caesar, now master of the Rolls, along with Sir Thomas Edmondes, the treasurer of the Household, despite the fact that both men ‘made all the means they could’.57 To add insult to injury Edmondes was also denied at Chester. In 1624 Edmondes secured a seat only with the greatest difficulty, having been spurned at Coventry and St. Albans, while Caesar, who also failed in two constituencies (Maldon and St. Ives), proved unable to find one at all. In Yorkshire in 1620, Secretary of State Sir George Calvert secured the senior knighthood of the shire with the assistance of Sir Thomas Wentworth, but not before he was maligned by Sir John Savile as ‘a stranger not safe to be entrusted by the country’.58 By the second half of the 1620s the problem had extended to the clients of the king’s chief minister, the duke of Buckingham, many of whom struggled to find seats. For instance, in the Cinque Ports, where Buckingham was lord warden, only three of the duke’s clients out of a total of eight nominees were accepted in 1626, and in 1628 the situation was almost as bad.

This hostility reflected a growing belief in the country at large that courtiers owed their first loyalty to the king rather than their constituents.59 In April 1625 an alderman of Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk, publicly questioned whether Sir John Suckling, ‘being one of the officers of His Majesty’s household’ would not ‘incline rather to the king than to the subject’ if elected.60 In January 1626, ahead of the forthcoming Suffolk election, Sir Robert Crane explained to John Winthrop that, on trying to garner support at Bury St. Edmunds for Sir Robert Naunton, the master of the Wards, he had been told that Naunton ‘was tied in so particular an obligation to His Majesty as if there were occasion to speak for the country he would be silent’.61 In the Kent election of 1624, the supporters of Sir Edwin Sandys reportedly branded Sir Dudley Digges a ‘royalist’. At the time Digges actually held no central government office, but this point is less important than the fact that Sandys’s supporters thought there was electoral advantage to be gained by traducing him in such terms.62

What had brought about this sea change in electoral attitudes? In the case of the townsmen of Bury St. Edmunds in 1626, the answer probably lies in the disastrous consequences to maritime trade of the war with Spain and the allegedly malign influence of Buckingham on the king. This would certainly help to explain their remark that ‘in general they would give no voice to any courtiers, especially at this time of all others’. However, as we have seen, the general antipathy towards those associated with the Court originated in the middle of James’s reign and so pre-dated the war with Spain.

One reason that courtiers came to be regarded as unsuitable representatives is that under James puritan writers began to associate the Court with values and beliefs that ran counter to those held in the country at large. The Court was seen as a centre of corruption and wickedness, where favourites helped themselves to the king’s wealth and misrepresented the truth for fear of losing office. It was also perceived as having been undermined by popery: many of James’s leading ministers, such as Henry Howard, earl of Northampton and Edward Somerset, earl of Worcester, were tainted with Catholicism, and under James the penal laws were relaxed as the king sought a Catholic bride for his eldest son. By contrast, the ‘Country’ was regarded as godly, pure and virtuous. In 1620 these stereotypes were set out in print by the best-selling puritan pamphleteer Thomas Scott, who argued that ‘Court’ and ‘Country’ were locked in a constant battle with one another, and that the normal forum for controlling the excesses of the Court was Parliament.63

The puritan view of the Court as the centre of iniquity and popery goes a long way towards explaining why courtiers in general and clients of the duke of Buckingham in particular often found it difficult to find seats during the 1620s. Association with Buckingham, coupled with well-founded suspicions about his commitment to doctrinal Calvinism, may well explain why Sir Edwin Sandys, the former darling of the House of Commons, proved unable to find a seat in 1628. However, there were probably other, equally important factors at work that led many voters to conclude that courtiers were ill equipped to represent their interests at Westminster. One was the widespread opposition to impositions, which had soured the political atmosphere in 1610 and was to become the major issue of the 1614 Parliament. Impositions threatened the principle that all taxation should be levied with the consent of the subject in Parliament. Since Members of the Commons were naturally expected by their constituents to uphold this principle, it would be surprising if some voters did not conclude that senior government officials were poorly placed to represent them.

A further likely explanation for the unwillingness of voters to return courtier is the continued hostility towards purveyance. During the first Jacobean Parliament the Commons’ hopes had twice been raised that purveyance would be abolished, only to be dashed on both occasions. Resentment at the demands of the Board of Greencloth continued to smoulder after 1610, both in the Home Counties, where the burden of purveyance was felt the heaviest, and further afield.64 At the 1614 county election for Hertfordshire, Sir Ralph Coningsby, whose name headed the list of those who rejected Salisbury’s offer of composition in the spring of 1611, was returned as the junior knight. In the Middlesex election that same year Sir Francis Darcy’s threat to stand against two councillors may have been prompted by hostility to purveyance, for in October 1614 Middlesex’s magistrates threatened to terminate the county’s composition arrangements with the board of Greencloth.65 Purveyance was almost certainly the cause of the discomfiture of Sir Thomas Edmondes and Sir Julius Caesar six years later; certainly a bill to regulate the purveyance of carts was brought into the Commons in March 1621 ‘by Middlesex men’.66

The growing belief that courtiers were inherently ill qualified to represent the interests of their constituents was one of the most remarkable developments of the early Stuart period. In part it reflected changing attitudes outside Westminster, but it also mirrored a profound alteration that was taking place among Members of the Commons. During the sixteenth century Members in general felt duty-bound to serve both their constituents and their monarch in equal measure. It was this balancing act to which Sir Fulke Greville was referring during the 1593 subsidy debate: ‘it is said our countries are poor, and we must respect them that sent us hither. So must we remember also who sent for us hither’.67 Under the early Stuarts, however, it became increasingly difficult for Members to reconcile the needs of their constituents with those of the king.68 Faced with the impossibility of satisfying both, some Members came to the conclusion that their chief loyalty lay with their constituents. In January 1610 Sir Henry Yelverton, on being accused by James of having been ‘my adversary’ during the 1606 subsidy debate, explained that ‘I only spoke (out of the knowledge of the country for which I served) to win time of payment, finding that a large disbursement at once might weaken them much’. In the subsidy debate of April 1628, John Delbridge, sitting for Barnstaple, famously told the Commons that ‘I speak not to lessen the gift but by command from my country’.69 To their dismay, those with Court office and seats in the Commons were increasingly seen as incapable of putting the needs of their constituents or the country at large before those of the king. In May 1626 Sir George Goring, lieutenant of the band of gentlemen pensioners and one of the duke of Buckingham’s leading spokesmen in the House, rebuked Sir John Eliot for employing the word ‘courtiers’ in a manner approaching abuse. According to one report, Goring declared ‘that courtiers were as honest men as any [that] were in the House, and did interest themselves as much in the good of the state’ as other Members.70

The fullest record we have of this phenomenon is provided by Sir Francis Kynaston, who sat for Shropshire in 1621. Writing at the end of the 1620s, Kynaston observed that many Members believed that in order to discharge their responsibilities to their constituents faithfully

they are to be all for the country, for the liberty of the subject, for the freedom of speech, and to gain as much, and as many privileges for the subject from the king as is possible. And if they stand stiffly out in the denial of subsidies, to save their own and their country’s purses, then they are excellent patriots and commonwealthsmen, [as] they have well and faithfully discharged the trust reposed in them by their city or country.

Other Members, however, including Kynaston himself, continued to cling to the view that they were duty-bound to carry out the wishes of the king. Although representatives, they were ‘still the king’s subjects as they were before’ and ‘the same men in duty and allegiance as those which are not present in Parliament’. They were not entitled to treat the king with contempt, either by employing ‘too great a freedom of speech’, or to treat him as an equal by seeking to deal with him ‘on even terms’.71

The emergence of these contrasting attitudes soon gave rise to the impression that there were, in effect, two rival parties or factions in the House of Commons, one consisting of courtiers and the other of spokesmen for ‘the country’, sometimes known by contemporaries as ‘patriots’. As early as December 1610, when Salisbury was feverishly attempting to cajole Members of the Commons behind the scenes to vote supply, John More, the London agent of the absentee diplomat Sir Ralph Winwood, referred to the activities of ‘His Majesty’s party’. In October 1611 Levinus Munck, secretary to Lord Treasurer Salisbury and a seasoned political observer, expressed surprise that Sir Henry Neville was in search of government office because in the last Parliament ‘he did not (like Sir Dudley Carleton) speak in Parliament for the king’s demands, but ranged himself with those Patriots that were accounted of a contrary faction to the courtiers’.72 However, it was in the 1620s that the language of ‘Court versus Country’ became entrenched. Following the subsidy debate of 4 August 1625 the veteran Member Sir Francis Nethersole wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton of those ‘who stood stiffest for the country’. In his account of the 1625 Parliament written a few years after the event, Sir John Eliot referred to ‘those that had relation to the Court’ and of the practices ‘used with all men to sound and gain them, wherein the courtiers did exceed’.73 Bulstrode Whitelocke admitted in his diary to sitting among the ‘mutineers’ in the gallery in 1626 and to seldom giving his vote ‘with the Court party’.74 The terms ‘Court’ and ‘Country’ became so widespread that in 1629 the chancellor of the duchy, Sir Humphrey May, declared in exasperation that ‘I wish we hear no more of the distinction betwixt Courtiers and Country gentlemen’.75

It would be misleading, though, to suggest that the period 1604-29 witnessed the emergence of political parties. To the early seventeenth-century mind, any attempt to create a formal opposition would have smacked of treason. As Conrad Russell observed, the only place for a leader of the opposition in early Stuart England was at the head of an army or in the Tower.76 Even Perez Zagorin, the chief protagonist of the view that political life under the early Stuarts become increasingly polarized between the Court on the one hand and the Country on the other, stopped short of arguing that the period gave rise to political parties, but instead referred to the emergence in the 1620s of ‘a proto-party’ in the Commons consisting of those most opposed to the Court.77

It would be equally mistaken to suppose that those with Court or central government office invariably sided with the Crown’s ministers. If anything, the first Jacobean Parliament witnessed the breakdown of the unity that had once existed among courtiers and the holders of central government office. On recommending in 1613 that James call a Parliament, Sir Francis Bacon advised that something be done ‘for the drawing of that body of the House which consisteth of courtiers and the king’s servants to be, as they have ever been in former times (except the last Parliament) used to be ... sure and zealous for the king and not (as they were then) fearful or popular’.78 Uppermost in Bacon’s mind must have been men like John Hare who, though clerk of the court of Wards, spearheaded the opposition to purveyance in the Commons. Bacon’s wish went unfulfilled, and during the Addled Parliament it remained the case that association with the Court did not automatically preclude a ‘country’ agenda. Walter Chute, who complained bitterly that James was only in financial want because of the corruption of senior ministers, was the king’s carver.79 Sir Edwin Sandys, who had become a client of the royal favourite the earl of Somerset, remained a thorn in the king’s flesh despite Bacon’s confident prediction that he had ‘fallen off’ and was no longer a member of ‘the opposite party’.80

The truth of the matter is that for much of the early Stuart period the courtiers and central government officials in the Commons were often deeply divided among themselves. In July 1625 some of them called for an additional grant of supply while others sat on their hands, and in 1626 the quarrel at Court between Buckingham and Pembroke was fought out in the Commons between the partisans of both men. Divisions among government officials and courtiers often ran so deep that it is sometimes not easy to see how parliamentary politics can be reduced to a clash between Court and Country. It is a striking yet little noticed fact that while Bacon believed firmly in the existence of an ‘opposite party’, he did not mean by this a Country party but a ‘popular party’, whose members were drawn from the ranks of three distinct elements: country gentry, urban representatives and disaffected courtiers.81

Clearly the contemporary perception of a Commons divided along the lines of Court and Country is highly problematic. However, it is unlikely to have been as false as is sometimes supposed,82 for not only was it widespread but also many of those who actually served in Parliament expressed belief in the existence of such a division. From time to time, such as during the subsidy debate of August 1625, Members clearly resolved themselves into two opposing camps on Court and Country lines.83 Even in 1626, when the Court was divided between pro – and anti-Buckingham factions, Country concerns, most notably the impact of the war on the localities, were just as important in driving the opposition to Charles and Buckingham as the hostility of the earl of Pembroke and Archbishop Abbot towards the king’s favourite.

Although the divide between Court and Country was most visible in the 1620s, it originated in the first Parliament of James’s reign. To some extent the author of this division was James himself. During the first Jacobean Parliament the sharp decline in conciliar control of the Commons created a vacuum into which official spokesmen were replaced by unofficial ones. It was around these ‘Tribunes of the People’, as they were sometimes known, that those hostile to the Court coalesced. While there were certainly Members with Court positions or central government office among this group, others – men like Edward Alford, Nicholas Fuller and Thomas Wentworth of Henley – were typical ‘Country’ Members and would, as has sometimes been observed, in all likelihood have refused central government office had it been offered to them.84

If, by neglecting Council control of the Commons, James helped to call into existence an alternative Commons’ leadership, he also contributed to the subsequent polarization of parliamentary politics along Court and Country lines. As we have seen, James was used to a Scottish Parliament that was amenable to noble and royal control and consequently,85 on finding himself repeatedly thwarted by the Commons, he expected his ministers to use their influence with their friends and dependents in the lower House to overcome the opposition to his demands. Interestingly, this belief – that the Commons could be managed if only the Crown had at its disposal a firm body of supporters in the lower House – came ultimately to be shared by Salisbury, for though he professed to be incapable of controlling the behaviour of his kinsman Yelverton, Salisbury nonetheless obtained the return of as many of his clients as he could ahead of the fourth session in the vain hope that this would make it easier to secure agreement with the Commons over the Great Contract.


As representatives, Members of the Commons were expected to keep a weather eye out for any item of business that had a bearing on their constituents, and if necessary to speak accordingly. During a debate in 1601 on the damage inflicted by the privateers operating out of Dunkirk, Peter Peake interjected that ‘I must needs show unto this House (upon so good an occasion offered) how grievously the town of Sandwich (for which I serve) is vexed and almost undone, in so much as in that town there is neither owner, master nor mariner that hath not felt it’.86 In January 1606 the corporation of Great Yarmouth declared that if anyone in Parliament tried to prevent foreigners from landing herrings on its quays it expected its burgesses to ‘use all possible means they can to prevent it’.87

In many instances, however, Members were not left to exercise their own initiative but were instead issued with instructions before the start of each Parliament. In general borough Members received their instructions in the days and weeks following their election, since borough corporations met frequently. However, it seems likely that knights of the shire, elected as they were at the county court which assembled only once every twenty-eight days, were normally briefed before the voters dispersed. Thus at the Cheshire election of 1624, Sir Richard Grosvenor, the county sheriff, not only urged the assembled voters to choose two able candidates but also advised them to ‘go a little further and ... command your knights that if there be occasion offered they shall in the name of their country, and as by special command of the country, make public protestation against a toleration of religion or the repealing of laws formerly made against recusants’.88 However, in some cases the knights of the shire may have looked to the chairman of the bench or the county’s lord lieutenant for guidance. It is certainly suggestive that on taking his seat at Westminster in 1626, the Leicestershire knight Francis Staresmore wrote to the county’s lord lieutenant, the 5th earl of Huntingdon, asking to be sent ‘a particular of the charge and expense for impress and conduct money, that I may make demand of it [from the Exchequer] in the behalf of the country’.89

In those boroughs with a settled form of municipal government, the task of drawing up parliamentary instructions fell to the ruling body. In London, which possessed the most sophisticated municipal government in the kingdom, the court of aldermen appointed a committee to which all four London Members were automatically named to agree a legislative agenda.90 At Great Yarmouth the corporation set up a similar body after each election to consider what instructions to give the burgesses before they departed for Westminster.91 In December 1620 a fifteen-strong committee was appointed to draw up instructions for the York Members immediately after the city’s parliamentary election.92 Where local men were elected, it was possible for corporations to issue oral as well as written instructions to their Members, but if those chosen were strangers and non-resident it sometimes proved impossible to brief them in person. When the governors of Hythe asked the London merchant Sir Lionel Cranfield in 1614 to come down to take his oath as a freeman and to receive instruction in a matter ‘for the particular good of this town’ they were rebuffed.93

Those constituencies with legislation to bring before Parliament, or that wished to obstruct or amend the bills of others, naturally turned in the first instance to their Members, who would be given detailed instructions and perhaps also ancillary paperwork to help them frame their arguments, draft any required legislation or provide evidence in case of inquiry. Moreover, as a Parliament progressed, a constituency that kept tabs on events at Westminster might issue fresh instructions to its Members. During the course of the 1624 Parliament Sir William Masham, sitting for Maldon, received a packet of letters sent by the bailiffs and a visit from the town’s serjeant of the mace, as did Sir Henry Mildmay in 1625.94 More than three weeks into the 1621 Parliament, James Tabor, the registrary of the University of Cambridge, wrote to one of the university’s Members (probably Barnaby Gooch) that he had learned that bills for the maintenance of impropriate churches and against unlicensed tradesmen would soon be laid before the Commons. Care needed to be taken in respect of both, he wrote, because in the case of the first the matter had implications for the university’s parsonages, and in the second it threatened to infringe the University’s 1604 charter, in which ‘a scholar or scholars’ servant may use a trade without contradiction or composition’.95

In the absence of a legislative agenda, many boroughs either issued no instructions at all or gave only general guidance to their Members. At Rochester the corporation required the Members elected in 1586, and perhaps also those returned on subsequent occasions, not only to swear that they would ‘be willing to put forth and prefer to pass … all and every such motions and bills as shall be thought meet and requested to be preferred by Mr. Mayor and the citizens of this city’, but also to avoid giving their ‘assent or consent to any motion or bill therein which shall tend to the overthrow, loss or prejudice’ of the city’s charters and liberties.96 Ahead of the 1628 session, the corporation of Berwick-upon-Tweed urged its Members to acquaint themselves with the Speaker and the clerk of the Commons, to mix ‘with the burgesses of other boroughs, and to have mutual conference with them ... about the bills preferred’, and to maintain a watching brief in order to establish ‘whether the passing of any bill may be prejudicial to this borough or not’. Were they to identify a measure likely to be ‘prejudicial to the good of this place or against our ancient liberties’, they were authorized not only to speak but also to ‘procure other burgesses to speak for a proviso for this place, as ever hath been accustomed, requesting their kindness with a like return on any their like occasions’.97

The instructions issued to Berwick’s Members provide a neat illustration of the fact that many corporations, while they naturally regarded their own Members as their advocates, understood that alliances had to be forged in Parliament with Members sitting for other constituencies if their interests were to be protected and furthered. Indeed, many constituencies did not operate exclusively through their own Members, but approached men sitting for other seats with whom they were closely connected and who might, at a pinch, be regarded as their honorary representatives. In 1607 the corporation of Southampton not only enlisted the aid of its two Members in pursuit of a bill to confirm the town’s fifteenth century charter, but also the assistance of William Brocke, who sat for St. Ives and served as recorder of Southampton. This sort of unofficial honorary representation was a phenomenon most closely associated with London, many of whose leading figures commonly found seats elsewhere. The case of the London alderman Sir John Swinarton, who ostensibly served for East Grinstead during the first Jacobean Parliament, was not untypical. A member of London’s parliamentary legislation committee, Swinarton was expressly instructed by the corporation in 1606 to lobby the Commons on behalf of the City. Men like Swinarton meant that London enjoyed a scale of representation far greater than its official quota of four seats would suggest.98

Ironically, this additional representation may have meant that some of London’s official Members were less assiduous in responding to the concerns of their constituents than they might otherwise have been. In 1606 the London Member Nicholas Fuller, despite being an ex officio member of the City’s legislative committee, spoke against a cloth bill in ignorance of the fact that it was sponsored by the City of London, to the embarrassment of his fellow London Member Richard Gore. A lawyer rather than a merchant, Fuller was more interested in the state of the Church and the proposed union with Scotland than he was in the cloth trade.99

Most enfranchised boroughs, of course, did not have access to men who could be regarded as their honorary representatives. For the larger boroughs this was unfortunate, as they often had so much business to transact that their parliamentary representatives were overburdened. Changes in the Commons’ working patterns accentuated this problem, for now that the House sat most of the day Members were frequently obliged to choose between sitting in the chamber and attending bill committees. ‘I cannot’, explained the assiduous and experienced Hull Member John Lister to his constituents in February 1621, ‘both attend the House [in] the afternoons and the committee’. In order to avoid overloading their Members many boroughs, explained Lister, considered it expedient to send one or two of their leading townsmen to Westminster to assist their elected representatives. Lister himself asked to be joined by James Watkinson, the weighmaster of the Hull woolhouse, ‘not for my own ease but for preventing ensuing damage to our town’.100 Where a borough had doubts about the ability of its elected representatives to carry out its instructions, it was sensible to dispatch assistants to London. On learning in March 1610 that Lowestoft had put in a bill to restrict its fishing rights, the borough of Great Yarmouth grew concerned that its two elderly Members, Thomas Damet and John Wheeler, would not have sufficient energy to defend its interests. Later that year it tried to persuade both men to resign their seats, but in the meantime it dispatched two aldermen to Damet ‘for his ease’ and for ‘the better discharge’ of the business.101

The borough that most often employed assistants to support the work of its elected representatives was London, which normally had a far larger legislative programme than any other town or city. The City Solicitor drafted corporation bills, preferred them to the Speaker and paid the appropriate fees.102 He was also employed as a lobbyist behind the scenes. In November 1606, for example, he was instructed not only to prefer one particular measure but also ‘to follow the same in such manner as it may best take effect’.103 From time to time the City Solicitor was supported in his parliamentary work by the City Remembrancer. On one occasion in 1610, the mayor of London employed a scrivener named Mr. Stanley to lobby Parliament concerning a bill paid for out of corporation funds to prevent brewers’ abuses.104

Another borough that frequently sent assistants to Westminster was York. In January 1621, having drawn up its legislative programme for the forthcoming assembly, the York corporation ordered Robert Belt ‘to go to London this Parliament to solicit the occasions which may concern the city according to certain instructions to him delivered’. In March 1626 the city’s junior Member, Christopher Brooke, was asked ‘whether he think fit to send up a solicitor this Parliament’. Two weeks later Robert Belt and Robert Hemsworth were dispatched with instructions to oppose the navigation project for the rivers Aire and Calder, a scheme which would ‘impoverish this city’ if implemented. In order to achieve this objective, they were to forge alliances with Members from other constituencies and petition the king, the Parliament or the Privy Council if necessary. Both men took to Westminster various maps and written instructions, which they proposed to leave with the town’s parliamentary representatives on returning home. During their time in the capital they succeeded in making common cause with John Lister, who once again sat for Hull and who proposed putting in a bill if negotiations with the Londoners over their monopoly of the Greenland whaling trade broke down. As they themselves were not intimately familiar with the whaling dispute, Belt and Hemsworth asked the mayor of York ‘to make choice of some one man by the consent of the company to come up presently to join with Mr Lister in that business and to follow the bill’.105

Aside from reducing a Member’s workload, one advantage of employing assistants was that a borough’s official representatives were provided with an immediately available source of expert advice. Another consideration, perhaps, was that it helped overcome the problem that more and more boroughs were electing as their representatives men who were outsiders and therefore unfamiliar with the concerns of their constituents. One borough that certainly employed assistants to bridge the gap between its Members’ insufficient local knowledge and its parliamentary requirements was the Sussex port of Rye. Shortly after the 1621 Parliament opened John Angell, who lived with his father in London, wrote to the borough corporation on behalf of himself and his fellow Rye Member, the courtier Emmanuel Giffard. The borough wished to lay before the Commons a bill for the repair of its haven, and Angell realizing that neither he nor Giffard were sufficiently versed in this matter, proposed that the corporation should ‘send someone up to London ... that Mr Giffard and myself may be strengthened with some good reasons in behalf of that cause’.106 Two weeks later the commonalty dispatched Richard Gibberidge to London as an assistant, with instructions concerning the harbour and also about the ‘injurious and disorderly fishing of the French and the unlawful use of the trawl’. Although the corporation revoked Gibberidge’s appointment a few months later, the mayor of the borough, John Palmer, was employed in his stead. In addition, a few weeks later the corporation sent two more men to London – John Bull and Elias Holmes – to discuss with the mayor and the borough’s Members the problem posed by the French trawlermen.107 Another borough which evidently felt the need to supply an assistant because its elected Members were insufficiently well versed in its economic affairs was the Berkshire town of Reading. In 1624 Reading returned to Parliament one of the sons of William Knollys, Viscount Wallingford and a local lawyer named John Saunders. Neither man was conversant with matters of commerce, and therefore when the borough decided to add its voice to the widespread demand for free trade Thomas Tourner, a former mayor, was sent up with instructions to ‘attend the burgesses of the Parliament’.108

One of the chief disadvantages of employing solicitors to augment the borough’s elected Members was the cost involved. Boroughs that elected outsiders to Parliament often did so to avoid paying parliamentary wages, but if the services of a solicitor were needed for any length of time the financial benefits of returning non-residents would soon start to diminish. (The amount spent by Rye on its solicitors in 1621 is not entirely clear, but Gibberidge, who was promised a daily allowance of 4s., may have been employed for around six weeks, while Palmer is known to have received £1 10s. in expenses).109 Perhaps because he feared that Rye would choose someone more familiar with its affairs than his son rather than incur the cost of sending up any more townsmen, John Angell’s father wrote to the corporation ahead of the 1624 Parliament offering to house and feed their solicitor himself.110

In many parliamentary boroughs the constituency interest and the wishes of the borough’s governing body were often seen as more or less synonymous. However, private individuals or corporations often had their own agendas, and were perfectly at liberty to approach their parliamentary representatives directly if they wished. In February 1610 the Colchester Members Edward Alford and Robert Barker were lobbied by the ketchmen living in their constituency with a request to support a bill limiting Great Yarmouth’s ability to prevent others from fishing on the Norfolk coast.111 That same month Exeter’s Members, Sir George Smith and John Prowse, were visited by some of the city’s unemployed inhabitants and asked to help present a petition to the king.112 However, private individuals or bodies could not issue instructions to their parliamentary representatives, whose first loyalty was to the corporation responsible for their election. On writing to Bristol’s Members on parliamentary business in 1621, the city’s Society of Merchant Venturers did not presume to issue an instruction but instead made bold ‘to crave your best endeavour’.113 It was because they could not be ordered to act on behalf of their unemployed supplicants that Smith and Prowse declined to petition the king but instead referred the matter to the mayor of Exeter. Knights of the shire, too, were not obliged to take instructions from private interest groups. When the senior knight for Shropshire, Sir Roger Owen, was approached by the representative of the Shrewsbury drapers’ company in November 1606, he agreed to help, not because he was required to do so but because ‘lately I have been particularly beholden unto you’.114

Private individuals or organizations wishing to call upon the services of their constituency’s Members sometimes found it expedient to work through the town or city council. When Exeter’s merchants decided to protest to Parliament against provisions in the Book of Rates in 1624, they proceeded via the borough corporation, which instructed Exeter’s Members ‘to prefer such grievances as are now sent up by John Chappell from the merchants, … together with some other grievances touching the state of the city’.115 In London during the sixteenth century there was an expectation that the livery companies would channel their parliamentary business through the City’s corporation. Indeed, under Mary and Elizabeth the London companies were required to present their bills to the court of aldermen for approval.116 However, by the start of James’s reign the livery companies routinely acted without reference to the court of aldermen; only the capital’s unincorporated workers, who lacked the lobbying and organizational skills of the livery companies, continued to seek aldermanic approval for their legislation.117 Similar independence was exhibited by the Shrewsbury drapers’ company, which frequently engaged in legislative activity without first consulting Shrewsbury’s corporation. In the case of London, the desire of the livery companies to work independently of the corporation is perhaps not surprising, since many of the companies had interests that were diametrically opposed to one another. After all, it would have been impossible for the corporation to represent both sides of an argument.

Like borough corporations, some private companies or groups sent ‘solicitors’ to Westminster. Some were employed with the full knowledge and consent of the local municipal authorities and were effectively assistants to the borough Members. John Chappell, the representative of the Exeter merchant community in 1624, certainly fell into this category,118 as perhaps did Robert Belt and Robert Hemsworth in 1626, since the York Merchant Adventurers agreed to pay a third of their costs.119 Others, however, like John Niccolls and John Prowde, who were dispatched to Westminster in 1610 and 1621 respectively by the Shrewsbury drapers, were not tied to their local parliamentary representatives, but worked exclusively for the company which sent them. These individuals, who were in effect lobbyists, naturally cost money – in 1610 the services of John Niccolls cost the Shrewsbury drapers £3 4s.120 – but a company that had an agent of its own in Westminster could expect to receive reports on developments there directly. John Prowde, for instance, sent at least four detailed dispatches to the Shrewsbury drapers during the spring of 1621. More importantly, having an agent on the ground meant that a company whose interests were threatened could act to defend them immediately. Either its representative could lobby sympathetic Members of the Commons or Lords or he could give evidence as an expert witness before a parliamentary committee. A case in point is that of John Prowde who, after the bill to allow free trade in Welsh cottons received a second reading in the Lords in May, fired off a petition opposing the measure on behalf of his company, to the displeasure of the bill’s promoters. A few days later he also appeared before the Lords’ committee of investigation, ‘where I prevailed so much as to have the bill amended’.121 These were the sorts of tasks that Members of the Commons, lacking the time or the necessary expertise, were often ill suited to perform, and besides, a Member who wished to appear before a Lords’ committee would have required special dispensation from the Commons.

Among the London livery companies the arrangements made in respect of solicitors were bewilderingly diverse. Often companies enlisted the services of the City Solicitor or one of the mayor’s officers to act on their behalf, but many preferred to use their own officers. Still others hired men especially for the purpose. In 1604 the Brewers retained George Whitton, a minor Oxfordshire gentleman and a veteran of three Elizabethan parliaments, to lobby on its behalf, at a cost of £5.122 In 1626 the Bakers paid £15 to Thomas Reading, ‘a solicitor’, to prefer their petition against Sir Abraham Williams’ patent for a machine to sieve and dress meal.123

Not all private corporations considered it necessary to work exclusively through their constituency Members. In May 1624 the London Fruiterers’ Company asked the knights for Kent to lobby on their behalf for ‘some good law’ to curb Dutch imports, as they represented the county ‘in which is the greatest plantation’ of fruit.124 In 1621 the Royal College of Physicians, learning that the Barber-Surgeons’ Company was about to seek parliamentary permission to encroach upon their privileges, instructed its fellows to ‘visit as soon as possible those friends whom they had among the burgesses of Parliament and win them over, particularly those representing the universities’.125 Many London companies appear to have relied upon a wide network of friends and supporters to represent their interests in Parliament. Some, like the Salters in 1610, called upon the services of their London neighbour, the Warwickshire knight of the shire Sir Edward Greville, while others like the Brewers during the 1620s, made use of the barrister-Member Thomas Malet, who sat for Tregony and acted as counsel for individual members of the Company. In May 1614 some of the officers of the Bakers’ Company, anxious to lay a bill before Parliament to prevent the sale of unsized bread, not only visited the London Members Sir Henry Montagu and Nicholas Fuller but also paid a call on John Hoskins, one of the Members for Hereford.126 Outside London, the same willingness to look beyond the constituency’s own Members can be discerned among some of the provincial trading companies. When the Shrewsbury drapers dispatched John Niccolls to Westminster in 1610, for instance, it was with instructions to work closely with the Coventry Members and its lobbyists to secure a bill to prevent interloping in the drapery trade.127

Accountability and communication

Unless they represented pocket boroughs like Old Sarum in Wiltshire or Gatton in Surrey, both of which were controlled by powerful local patrons and had less than a dozen voters, Members of the Commons were well aware that they would ultimately be required to justify the time spent at Westminster to their constituents. At the start of the 1621 Parliament Sir Edward Coke reminded his colleagues that they were to give ‘a good account of our doings to our country for whom we are entrusted’.128 In June 1610, after the Commons had spent four months in fruitless negotiations over the Great Contract and complaining about impositions, John Tey opined that ‘if we should now return into our country with nothing for the good of the commonwealth’ their constituents would say that they had ‘been all this while like children in catching butterflies’.129 More than one Member was influenced by the knowledge that he would have to explain to his neighbours the decisions reached by the Commons. In May 1628 Sir Roger North opposed the passing of a bill to confirm Magna Carta on the grounds that ‘our country, to whom we must be accountable’, would ask when this fundamental law had been repealed.130 Those that had received explicit instructions from their constituents were expected to account promptly for their doings on returning home. When the two Members for York failed to report ‘immediately ... to my lord mayor according to civility and ancient custom’ in 1563, they narrowly escaped being fined £5 apiece.131

It was not only constituencies that expected to receive an account of events at Westminster. Fathers with sons in the Commons – especially fathers who had experience of sitting themselves – sometimes expected to receive reports from their offspring. Sir John Wynn, who had represented Caernarvonshire in 1586, was provided with a steady stream of news from Westminster in 1624 and 1625 by his eldest son Sir Richard and by Sir Richard’s younger brother Henry, both of whom had seats in the Commons. Some fathers even expected their sons to account to them for their conduct in Parliament. On hearing unfavourable reports of his carriage in 1614, the former Speaker Sir Edward Phelips warned his son Sir Robert that unless he applied himself to ‘the furtherance of His Majesty’s business’ he would ‘assuredly feel the effects’ of his displeasure.132 In 1626 Sir James Whitelocke, a veteran of three parliaments, expressed disapproval on learning that his son Bulstrode, whom he had helped to a place at Stafford, had taken to sitting in the Commons’ gallery, then ‘esteemed the resort of mutineers’.133

Many Members feared heavy criticism from their constituents if they failed to protect the latter’s interests. This anxiety, never far from the surface when subsidies were debated, was sometimes acute. During the midst of the Great Contract negotiations, for instance, one Member reportedly cautioned his colleagues against giving the king too much for fear that an over-generous settlement would place their ‘throats ... in danger of cutting’ on returning home.134 For those who were also anxious to please the king, the fear of angering their constituents placed them on the horns of a dilemma. Speaking during the subsidy debate of March 1621 against a backdrop of economic depression and the rise of militant Catholicism on the Continent, the Newcastle Member Sir Henry Anderson reportedly declared: ‘Dangers to return into the country, and tell them of subsidies; dangerous, again, not to give’.135

Voting subsidies was not the only issue that aroused anxiety among Members with one eye fixed firmly on their constituents. In late May 1621, following the king’s announcement that he shortly intended to bring the session to a close, the Commons was thrown into a panic as horrified Members realized that in the brief time available they would be unable to complete their legislative business. ‘Let us debate how we may best report in the country our employments here’, advised Sir Edwin Sandys, who added three days later that, on returning home, they should ‘palliate, and excuse the best we can’.136 At least eight other Members expressed agitation at the prospect of returning home empty-handed, among them Sir Richard Grosvenor, who feared that they would ‘be made subjects of the people’s fury, if not of disgrace 137 In December 1621 Sir Robert Phelips, alarmed that James had forbidden the House from proceeding against the lawyer Henry Goldsmith, who had tried to prosecute Sir Edward Coke in his capacity as chairman of a parliamentary committee, declared that he was ‘loath to carry down news that we have lost our privileges’.138

However, it was the fear of arousing the wrath of their fellow subjects by imposing upon them a greater financial burden than they were able or willing to bear that gave the Commons the greatest cause for concern. One way around this difficulty was to refrain from voting supply until such times as Members had canvassed the views of their constituents. If, after consultation, it was found that the electorate was content to pay the sums demanded then Members need not fear being reproached by their neighbours, but if it was clear from the reaction of their local communities that there was no appetite to proceed then they would be obliged to withhold their consent.

There was nothing new in the proposition that Members of the Commons should sound out their constituents before voting money, but prior to James’s accession it had not been heard since the middle ages. This is hardly surprising, as ordinarily Members were expected to exercise their own judgments in relation to supply rather than send back to their constituents for instructions. However, during the first Jacobean Parliament the Commons was twice asked to vote the king a permanent addition to his annual income. These requests were considerably more far-reaching than a demand for a one-off payment and caused many Members to worry that unless they deferred to their constituents they would lack sufficient authority to enter into such an agreement.

These doubts first surfaced in June 1604, after the king’s chief minister, Robert, Lord Cecil failed to reach agreement with the Commons over abolishing purveyance in return for an annual, nationwide composition. Discussing Cecil’s proposal for composition, the authors of the Form of Apology and Satisfaction of the Commons remarked that the House dared not impose such a legally binding arrangement upon the people ‘without first acquainting them and having their consents unto’.139 Over the course of the subsequent recess, many Members probably availed themselves of the opportunity to discuss purveyance with their constituents, for on returning to Westminster in 1605/6 they enthusiastically re-opened the question. Among the many speakers to participate in the ensuing debates was the Taunton Member John Bond, who declared that ‘the country expects we shall proceed by bill’.140

Members again deferred to their constituents in 1610, when the Commons considered whether to provide the king with an annual income in return for the abolition of wardship and purveyance. By the beginning of May many Members were not only reeling at the scale of the Crown’s financial demands but were also worried about committing themselves to any agreement in case the people were ‘offended and moved thereby’.141 Sir William Twysden, who had been returned at a by-election in 1607, offered a way out of this difficulty by reminding the House that in 1340 the Commons had asked for permission to ‘go into the country’ to ‘receive a resolution and authority’ from their constituents before voting supply.142 The implied suggestion also corresponded with the wishes of Cecil, now Lord Treasurer Salisbury. On 11 June, realizing that it was impossible to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion before the end of the session, Salisbury proposed that Members should use the forthcoming recess to consult their constituents. He added that he had heard ‘bitter and sour reports that some of you speak as if your countries were angry and discontented’ with the £100,000 the House had already offered to give, ‘so as you stand close fisted’. Postponing the proposed agreement until Parliament reassembled in the autumn would enable Members to ‘understand the disposition of those that now make you startle’.143

According to Salisbury, James endorsed this suggestion. This is not inherently improbable, for less than two months earlier the king had conceded that Members had to beware of giving ‘more than is fit for good and loving subjects’ in case they ‘abuse the king and hurt the people’.144 Moreover, the idea that Members should consult their constituents was entirely consistent with James’s view, expressed in 1604, that the Commons could not assume that its Members were automatically familiar with the feelings of his subjects by virtue of its elected status. In the debate which followed the lord treasurer’s speech, several Members expressed their approval of Salisbury’s idea, on the grounds that it would allow their constituents to ‘give their free consents of that which should be done’.145

Over the course of the summer many Members did indeed consult their constituents, and what they found undoubtedly helps to explain why the Contract negotiations subsequently collapsed. On returning to his home in Leicestershire, Sir Thomas Beaumont, the senior knight of the shire, certainly found that his constituents, while ‘glad that the sunshine of His Majesty’s favour should come so far as to reach them’ were unwilling to proceed unless James first abandoned his claim to be entitled to levy impositions.146 In Nottinghamshire, Sir John Holles ‘preached from region to region of this country … to inform them of our Parliament proceedings and to inform myself of their decision’. In the process he found ‘a very uncertain temper’ among the lower orders for the Contract, although ‘they bit somewhat eagerly at the taking away all manner of purveyance’.147 When the House resumed sitting in October, many Members chose to stay away, and those that did return demonstrated little enthusiasm for the Contract. Since there were no further attempts to persuade the Commons to provide the king with a permanent income in exchange for the surrender of his prerogative duties, the idea that Members should consult their constituents before voting supply largely disappeared thereafter. Indeed, prior to the 1640s the only trace of it that can be found is during the subsidy debates of March 1624, when Edward Alford observed that ‘in other parliaments they would ask their countries before they would give’.148

Many Members who expressed apprehension about accounting to their constituents were contemplating the end of a session or a long period of adjournment, when they would be expected to return home. For the county Members this was particularly true, for while they remained at Westminster it was difficult to see how they could send reports back, there being no organization or body within their constituencies with whom they could correspond. In 1604 the knights of the shire were ordered to take copies of the king’s letter declining a subsidy and ‘publish it in their countries’, but that was in the dying days of the session, as Members were about to return home.149 In 1621 Sir Thomas Wentworth, sitting for Yorkshire, provided some of his constituents with a detailed account of the first few months of the Commons’ proceedings, but he did so only after he returned home rather than from Westminster.150

To an extent, the problem facing the knights of the shire was more apparent than real, as it was not unusual for Members to spread news of Parliament’s proceedings to their friends and relatives. Thomas Smyth, sitting for Bridgwater, posted regular reports to his mother at her home in Somerset in 1628, for instance.151 Some Members were only too keen to supply their friends with as much information as possible. Writing in May 1604, Tobie Mathew notified John Donne that ‘divers projects have been sent to the House’ regarding the Union. ‘Send me word which of them you have’, he added, ‘that I may send or bring you them you want’. On the afternoon of 12 April 1624 Simonds D’Ewes, then a young law student in London, received a visit from Sir Thomas Holland, one of the knights for Norfolk, who related to him and his father that Lord Treasurer Middlesex ‘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’.152

Although Members often sent their friends and relatives news of proceedings at Westminster, this was not, of course, the same as reporting directly to their constituents. Sir George More, the senior knight for Surrey, may have been correct when he boasted in April 1614 that ‘the commonwealth ... continually speaketh to us’, but how often he and his fellow county representatives spoke to the commonwealth in return is far from clear.153 For those living in remote parts of the country, this lack of information while a Parliament was in being could be deeply frustrating. ‘I can hear of no certain news of the Parliament’, complained Sir Roger Mostyn from his Flintshire home to Sir John Wynn in April 1626.154 When intelligence did reach the shires it frequently took the form of unsubstantiated rumour. Unless they happened to drop by, the north Somerset neighbours of Elizabeth Smyth of Ashton Court, whose son sat in 1628 for Bridgwater and sent his mother weekly dispatches, were dependent on rumours, ‘diversely reported’ of Parliament’s great business, the Petition of Right.155

For those not fortunate enough to live near someone with a close relative in Parliament, often the only way to discover what was going on at Westminster was to obtain a copy of one of the many newsletters that circulated in increasing numbers during this period. In 1610 John Drake of Ash, in Devon, received a newsletter concerning proceedings in the Commons that he passed on to his friend William Pole of Colyton. Pole in turn read the contents to his friend and neighbour William Yonge.156 During the 1620s the Suffolk gentleman Sir Martin Stuteville received a steady stream of newsletters conveying parliamentary and political news from his friend Joseph Mead in Cambridge, whose couriers in 1626 included ‘the cheeseman’.157 Reports such as these were often supplemented by copies of individual parliamentary speeches known as ‘separates’, which were produced on a commercial basis. These documents were hugely popular, and it is estimated that in some cases the number of copies made of particular items ‘must have run into hundreds, if not thousands’.158 The early 1620s also witnessed the appearance of the first political cartoons, for in the wake of the Commons’ discomfiture of the monopolist Sir Giles Mompesson, a print satirizing the fallen Mompesson was produced.159

It was easier for enfranchised boroughs than the counties to keep in touch with their Members while Parliament was sitting. Corporate boroughs in particular possessed municipal officers to whom their Members could write, such as a mayor or a bailiff, and the universities had recognized officials. Those boroughs that charged their representatives with the task of carrying out particular legislative duties certainly expected to be kept informed of their Members’ activities as a Parliament unfolded. Indeed, the corporation of London in February 1624 explicitly instructed its four Members to ‘acquaint and certify this court from time to time of their proceedings and opinions’.160 In April 1624 the Exeter Member John Prowse wrote to inform the mayor of Exeter that ‘I have, according to the instructions sent up both for the city and company of merchants employed my best care to please you every way and have possessed the House of Parliament with such things as do most touch the merchants in burden of their trade, as they have advised’.161 One month later John Angell, sitting for Rye, felt obliged to send a letter of explanation to his constituents, for although Parliament had been in session three months he had failed to lay before the Commons a bill to transfer control of Dungeness lighthouse from private patentees to the corporation.162 Letters sent by borough Members to the mayor or bailiff of a borough were not private documents but were intended for general consumption by members of the corporation. At an assembly of the common council of Great Yarmouth in March 1626, dispatches addressed to the bailiffs by Alderman Thomas Johnson, one of the town’s Members, were read aloud to the governing body.163 In June 1607 a letter from the Southampton Member Sir John Jeffrey regarding the progress of a bill to confirm the city’s charter was read out to the whole corporation.164

Only by receiving a steady stream of reports from Westminster could a borough or university decide whether to issue fresh instructions to its representatives. On hearing that a fen drainage bill was likely to receive a reading in the Commons, the registrary of the University of Cambridge wrote to one of the university’s Members requesting more information, for ‘if I heard of the particulars of the bill I doubt not but I could acquaint you with some material points to be stood upon for us’.165 Another reason some boroughs kept in close contact with their parliamentary representatives was that they sometimes needed to pick their brains, for being close to the political centre Members of the Commons were generally better placed than their constituents to gauge what was politically possible. In June 1628 the Canterbury representative Thomas Scott received a letter from two members of Canterbury’s corporation seeking his advice on how the city should go about ridding itself of the soldiers that had been billeted on it.166

Many boroughs were not solely interested in learning from their Members the fate of their own parliamentary business as they also wished to hear of wider developments, both at Westminster and elsewhere. Some of Hull’s Members were particularly assiduous in keeping their constituents briefed. In March 1606, for instance, Anthony Cole, sent the mayor of Hull copies of the articles against recusants agreed on by Commons in the wake of the Gunpowder Plot; news of ‘divers good bills’ of a godly nature; an account of the panic that had ensued after it was rumoured that James had been assassinated; and the information that the lower House had voted three subsidies and three fifteenths.167 During the 1621 Parliament John Lister sent assorted news of events in Parliament and on the Continent.168 Exeter’s Members, too, kept their constituents informed of developments at Westminster, sometimes sending them copies of important documents. The borough archives still contain copies of the 1628 Petition of Right, the Remonstrance of 17 June 1628 and Charles’s response dated nine days later.169 In 1626 the Great Yarmouth Member Thomas Johnson sent his constituents copies of the king’s message to the Commons of 11 March concerning supply and Samuel Turner’s notorious speech against the duke of Buckingham, among other documents.170 However, this appetite for information sometimes conflicted with the Commons’ own requirement that its Members maintain secrecy while debates were still in progress. This became noticeably apparent in December 1621, when the master of the Rolls, Sir Julius Caesar, fearing the impact on the marriage negotiations with Spain, moved that no copies of the king’s recent letter forbidding discussion of the marriage of Prince Charles nor the Commons’ petition opposing the match ‘should be delivered to any that are not of the House’. However, the motion was defeated after Sir Robert Phelips pointed out that the Spanish ambassador already had ‘perfect intelligence [of] what was do here’ and after Thomas Malet pointed out that ‘our countries which hath trusted us’ were ‘fit to be acquainted’.171 When the need for secrecy collided with the demands of accountability, more often than not it was the latter which prevailed.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush

End Notes

  • 1. The Pprs. of Sir Richard Grosvenor, 3.
  • 2. CJ, i. 267b; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 300. On the obligation of Members in general to speak up for their constituents, see Chapter 10.
  • 3. The wording is taken from the commission issued in 1628 to John Ashburnham and Nicholas Eversfield: E. Suss. RO, Hastings’ corp. min. bk. 2, f. 38v.
  • 4. Hull RO, bench bk. 5, f. 41.
  • 5. Procs. 1625, p. 689. For a discussion of sheriffs’ precepts, which varied in their wording from one county to another and from one sheriff to another, see Chapter 4.
  • 6. I. Temple, Petyt ms 538/17, f. 494v; 538/51, f. 77; Bowyer Diary, 97. The copy of the Form of Apology in Hargrave 195, ff. 58-9, says ‘representatively presented’. The text printed in Constitutional Docs. 223, says ‘the shires, cities and boroughs of England, by representation to be present.’
  • 7. Soc. Antiq. ms 291, f. 23; CD 1621, v. 240. In 1625 the Commons claimed to be ‘the representative body of the whole commons of this realm’: Procs. 1625, p. 478.
  • 8. CD 1621, ii. 534. For a further instance of the Commons attempting to claim moral authority over the Lords because of its representative nature, see CSP Ven. 1607-10, p. 516.
  • 9. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 302-3.
  • 10. CD 1628, iii. 136, 142.
  • 11. CJ, i. 666b. See also CD 1621, ii. 527. Coke was speaking in support of Henry, Lord Clifford: CJ, i. 665a.
  • 12. For a fuller discussion of this subject, see Chapter 9.
  • 13. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 120-1.
  • 14. C. Hill, The Century of Revolution 1603-1714 (2nd edn.), 37, 101.
  • 15. For a discussion of the size of the electorate during this period see Chapter 4 and Hirst, The Representative of the People?, 105.
  • 16. The only known record of this speech was made by the clerk, whose summary reads ‘We be the gentry; an abstract of all the – . Not forget the representative body. Farmers, etc.’: CJ, i. 402a.
  • 17. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 433.
  • 18. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, iii. 182-3; E.N. Lindquist, ‘The King, the People and the House of Commons: The Problem of Early Jacobean Purveyance’, HJ, xxxi. 550-2, 556.
  • 19. The Stuart Constitution, 40.
  • 20. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, vii. 178.
  • 21. Leics. RO, DG7 Box 4966, Finch pprs., XVIII, Law 3.
  • 22. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 240v; CJ, i. 978a. Clergymen were nevertheless often actively involved in elections, for which see Chapter 4.
  • 23. CD 1628, iii. 350.
  • 24. Glanville, Reps. of Certain Cases (1775), p. 43.
  • 25. BL, Royal ms 18, C.V, ff. 51-5 (I am grateful to Ken Fincham for this reference); J. Sommerville, Royalists and Patriots (2nd edn.), 114. For a further discussion of Swaddon and Cowell’s proposal, see Chapter 2.
  • 26. CD 1621, iii. 298. Calvert was speaking about a bill to allow free fishing off the coast of North America.
  • 27. See Chapter 2.
  • 28. CJ, i. 763a.
  • 29. Canterbury Cathedral Archives, U66, f. 19.
  • 30. C. Russell, ‘The Nature of a Parl.’, in Before the English Civil War ed. H. Tomlinson, 139.
  • 31. Procs. 1628, vi. 127.
  • 32. Harl. 2334, f. 18v.
  • 33. Devon RO, SM1989, f. 20.
  • 34. Bowyer Diary, 88; CJ, i. 288a, 293a, 306b.
  • 35. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 315.
  • 36. N. Jones, ‘Parl. and the Political Soc. of Elizabethan Eng.’ in Tudor Political Culture ed. D. Hoak, 226.
  • 37. Coke, Fourth Institutes of the Laws of Eng. 14.
  • 38. Procs. 1625, p. 680.
  • 39. For the details, see the entry on Alford.
  • 40. Harl. 2334, ff. 18v-19.
  • 41. L.F. Brown, ‘Ideas of Representation from Eliz. to Chas. II’, JMH, xi. Blue was the colour worn by domestic servants.
  • 42. Staffs. RO, D(W)1721/1/4, f.27v (2nd numbering), f. 37.
  • 43. For the details, see the Canterbury constituency article.
  • 44. Procs. 1621, ii. appendix.
  • 45. Procs. 1625, p. 519.
  • 46. ‘CD 1604-7’, pp. 36, 44.
  • 47. Procs. 1625, p. 520.
  • 48. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 416, 421-2.
  • 49. Archaeologia, xv. 51. For a further discussion of this point, see Chapter 13.
  • 50. Recs. of Bor. of Leicester, iv. 140.
  • 51. E. Suss. RO, RYE/47/96/3-5.
  • 52. Procs. 1625, p. 547.
  • 53. Cott., Titus F.IV, f. 342r-v.
  • 54. Chamberlain Letters, i. 517-18; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. Knowler, i. 10.
  • 55. For the details, see Chapter 5.
  • 56. Wentworth Pprs. 65; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 143.
  • 57. HMC Bucccleuch, i. 256; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 200.
  • 58. R. Cust, ‘Pols. and the Electorate in the 1620s’, in Conflict in Early Stuart Eng. ed. R. Cust and A. Hughes, 145.
  • 59. Hirst, 141.
  • 60. Procs. 1625, p. 685.
  • 61. Winthrop Pprs. (Massachusetts Hist. Soc.), i. 326.
  • 62. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 540.
  • 63. P.G. Lake, ‘Constitutional Consensus and Puritan Opposition in the 1620s: Thomas Scott and the Spanish Match’, HJ, xxv. 819-20.
  • 64. For the Leicestershire evidence, see R. Cust, ‘Purveyance and Pols. in Jacobean Leics.’, in Regionalism and Revision: The Crown and its Provinces in Eng. 1250-1650 ed. P. Fleming, A. Gross and J.R. Lander, 154-9.
  • 65. Mdx. Sessions Recs. (new ser.) ed. W. le Hardy, ii. 117.
  • 66. CD 1621, v. 322.
  • 67. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 102. For a similar view, expressed in mid June 1610 by Sir Robert Cotton, see Procs. 1610, ii. 146.
  • 68. Russell, Unrevolutionary Eng. 56.
  • 69. Archaeologia, xv. 45; CD 1628, ii. 304.
  • 70. Procs. 1626, iv. 302; ii. 18.
  • 71. Lansd. 213, ff. 162, 167r-v.
  • 72. Winwood’s Memorials, iii. 235; HMC Buccleuch, i. 102.
  • 73. Procs. 1625, pp. 537, 548, 710.
  • 74. Diary of Bulstrode Whitelocke, 53.
  • 75. CD 1629, p. 236.
  • 76. Russell, PEP, p. 416.
  • 77. P. Zagorin, The Court and the Country: The Beginning of the English Revolution, 76.
  • 78. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, iv. 367.
  • 79. An observation first made by Conrad Russell in his The Addled Parl. of 1614: The Limits of Revisionism, 6.
  • 80. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, iv. 365, 370.
  • 81. Ibid. 367.
  • 82. Russell wrote that ‘there is no sign that the Commons was divided on government-opposition or court-country lines’: The Addled Parl. 6.
  • 83. The contemporary observer William Whiteway of Dorchester referred in his diary to the existence of two sides: William Whiteway of Dorchester: His Diary 1618 to 1635 (Dorset Rec. Soc. xii), 74.
  • 84. Lockyer, The Early Stuarts (2nd edn.), 99.
  • 85. For a discussion of this point, see Chapter 13.
  • 86. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I, iii. 430.
  • 87. Norf. RO, Y/C/19/5, f. 51.
  • 88. The Pprs. of Sir Richard Grosvenor, 5.
  • 89. Procs. 1626, iv. 318.
  • 90. For the details see the London constituency article.
  • 91. Norf. RO, Y/C19/5, ff. 39, 231, 293; Procs. 1625, p. 685.
  • 92. York City Archives, House bk. 34, f. 209r-v.
  • 93. E. Kent Archives Centre, H1209, f. 46.
  • 94. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/108 rots. 11, 12; 3/3/294.
  • 95. CUL, CUR 50, item 2.
  • 96. Guildhall Museum, Rochester, ‘Customal’, f. 72r-v.
  • 97. J. Scott, Berwick-upon-Tweed, 473. The original ms appears to be lost.
  • 98. CLRO, Reps. 27, ff. 104v, 156v. This theme is explored in detail in the London constituency article.
  • 99. Bowyer Diary, 33-4.
  • 100. Hull RO, L.169. For changes in the Commons’ working arrangements, and the impact on bill committees, see Chapter Six.
  • 101. Norf. RO, Y/C19/5, ff. 77, 83r-v. Great Yarmouth also appointed a solicitor to assist its elected Members ahead of the 1614 Parl.: ibid. f. 125.
  • 102. For the details see the London constituency article.
  • 103. CLRO, Reps. 27, f. 295v.
  • 104. CLRO, Reps. 29, f. 238v.
  • 105. York City Archives, House bk. 35, ff. 6, 8v-9.
  • 106. E. Suss. RO, RYE/47/96/10.
  • 107. E. Suss. RO, RYE/1/10, ff. 217v, 219-20.
  • 108. Reading Recs. ii. 178.
  • 109. E. Suss. RO, RYE/1/10, f. 217v; RYE/61/27, f. 15v.
  • 110. E. Suss. RO, RYE/47/98/7.
  • 111. Harl. 6838, ff. 226v-7.
  • 112. HMC Exeter, 80.
  • 113. Recs. Relating to Soc. of Merchant Venturers ed. P.W. McGrath (Bristol Rec. Soc. xvii), 9.
  • 114. Salop RO, 1831/14, 24 Nov. 1606, Sir Roger Owen to the master and wardens of the Shrewsbury drapers.
  • 115. Devon RO, ECA, Act bk. 7, p. 539.
  • 116. D.M. Dean, ‘Public or Private? London, Leather and Legislation in Elizabethan Eng.’, HJ, xxxi. 527-9.
  • 117. For a detailed discussion, see the London constituency article. A rare exception appears to have been the Bakers’ Company in 1614, which decided to introduce a bill for suppressing the sale of unsized bread only after receiving a precept from the lord mayor: GL, ms 5174/3, f. 249v.
  • 118. HMC Exeter, 137, 166.
  • 119. York City Archives, House bk. 35, ff. 5v-6.
  • 120. Salop RO, 1831/2/1, 1610 acct.
  • 121. Salop RO, 1831/14, letters from Prowde dated 25 Apr., 30 Apr., 2 May and 8 May 1621.
  • 122. GL, ms 5442/5, unfol. 1603-4 acct.
  • 123. GL, ms 5174/4, ff. 6v, 7v. For a detailed discussion of the livery company’s lobbying arrangements, see the London constituency article.
  • 124. Add. 33924, f. 32.
  • 125. Royal Coll. of Physicians, ms 2287, p. 142.
  • 126. GL, ms 5174/3, ff. 249v-50.
  • 127. Salop RO, 1831/14, 19 Feb. 1610, John Niccolls to Thomas Charlton, master of the Shrewsbury drapers.
  • 128. CD 1621, ii. 23.
  • 129. Parl. Debates 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 55.
  • 130. CD 1628, iii. 288.
  • 131. HP Commons 1558-1603, i. 295.
  • 132. Som. RO, DD/PH 224/80.
  • 133. Diary of Bulstrode Whitelocke, 53.
  • 134. Political Works of Jas. I, 317.
  • 135. CJ, i. 742b.
  • 136. CD 1621, iii. 329; CJ, i. 633b.
  • 137. Russell, Unrevolutionary Eng. 55; CD 1621, iii. 347.
  • 138. CJ, i. 660b.
  • 139. Constitutional Docs. 228.
  • 140. Lindquist, ‘The King, the People and the House of Commons’, 563-4; CJ, i. 282a.
  • 141. Winwood’s Memorials, iii. 160.
  • 142. CJ, i. 423b. For the 1340 precedent, see W.M. Ormrod, The Reign of Edward III, 22.
  • 143. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 138-9.
  • 144. Political Works of Jas. I, 317.
  • 145. ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 16.
  • 146. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 318.
  • 147. Letters of John Holles ed. P.R. Seddon (Thoroton Soc. rec. ser. xxxvi), iii. 515.
  • 148. Holles 1624, p. 49.
  • 149. CJ, i. 998a.
  • 150. Wentworth Pprs. 152-7.
  • 151. Bristol RO, AC/C48/6, 12.
  • 152. A Collection of Letters, made by Sir Tobie Mathews (1660), p. 292; Diary of Sir Simonds D’Ewes ed. Bourcier, 191-2.
  • 153. CJ, i. 462b.
  • 154. NLW, 9055E/734. The year date is wanting, but can be supplied from internal evidence.
  • 155. Cal. of the Corresp. of the Smyth Fam. of Ashton Court 1548-1642 ed. J.H. Bettey (Bristol Rec. Soc. xxxv), 87.
  • 156. Diary of Walter Yonge ed. G. Roberts (Cam. Soc. xli), 20.
  • 157. Procs. 1626, iv. 269.
  • 158. R. Cust, ‘News and Pols. in Early Seventeenth Century Eng.’, P and P, cxii. 63-4.
  • 159. BL, Satirical Prints, no. 91 (1621).
  • 160. CLRO, Reps. 38, f. 61.
  • 161. HMC Exeter, 113.
  • 162. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 171.
  • 163. Procs. 1626, iv. 236. For similar examples from Great Yarmouth’s records, see Norf. RO, Y/C19/55, f. 296; Y/C19/6, f. 95.
  • 164. The Southampton Mayor’s Bk. of 1606-8 ed. W.J. Connor (Soton Recs. Ser. xxi), 85.
  • 165. CUL, CUR 50, item 2.
  • 166. Procs. 1628, vi. 221-2.
  • 167. Hull RO, L.159, 160.
  • 168. Ibid. 168-71.
  • 169. HMC Exeter, 184-7; W. MacCaffrey, Exeter 1540-1640, p. 228.
  • 170. Procs. 1626, iv. 236.
  • 171. CD 1621, vi. 227-8; CJ, i. 659b.