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A.D. 1669. his sentiments to the king. A committee, of

which he was one, was immediately appointed
for that purpose. After several meetings they
made a report, by the Earl of Essex, who had en-
tered into a firm friendship with Lord Ashley,
that they thought the three following things
advisable :
: “ That the interest of money should be reduced
from six to four per cent. :

“ That a bill of registers should be brought in : ." And a bill of general naturalization.”

The two last resolutions were readily agreed to; but the first being strongly debated, Lord Ashley and three other lords were appointed to make choice of some of the ablest persons they knew, to give their opinions thereon before a committee of the whole house. The committee, after the hearing, were likewise for the reduction, but the house did not agree to the report.81

81 As the proceedings of this committee do not appear in detail upon the Lords' Journals, this account is probably taken from the earl's private memoranda.

The increased intelligence of the present age has recognised the wisdom of the lords in rejecting the proposed enactment with regard to usury. There is now scarcely a difference of opinion among thinking men as to the impolicy of attempting any legislative interference with money transactions. The

The Earl of Essex made a subsequent report, A.D. 1669. from the committee appointed to consider of the reasons of the decay of trade, “ that it was their opinion that some ease and relaxation in ecclesiastical matters would be a means of improving the trade of the nation ;” but, two days afterwards, on the 11th of December, the parliament was prorogued.

When the parliament met again, on the 14th 1669-70. of February, the house of commons, to prevent against seany steps being taken to relax the laws in ecclesi- venticles. astical matters, soon passed and sent up to the lords another bill to suppress seditious conventicles. This was debated by the lords for several days in committees of the whole house ; and in one of these, on the 21st of March 1669, the king going unexpectedly into the house, the house was resumed, till he told them, “ he was come to renew a custom of his predecessors, long discontinued, to be present at debates, but not to inter

ditious con

absurdity of pretending to lower the rate of interest by placing an
additional risk upon the sum lent, has been frequently exposed.
The usury laws have been recently much broken in upon, and
would doubtless have been long since repealed, but the legal
rate of interest has been for some time so much above the ordi-
nary value of money, that, being seldom called into use, the
harm they do is less conspicuous.
VOL. I.

2 c

1669-70.

A. D. rupt the freedom thereof;"* and, therefore, he

desired the lords to sit down, and put on their hats: and from that time the king, as appears by

the journals, was almost daily in the house, and A.D. 1670. sat in his chair of state. The bill against con

venticles (probably by the influence of the king's presence) passed for a year; but when it was sent up to the lords the next sessions, it never obtained a second reading. Nay, a motion was made for rejecting it, but this was prevented by the previous question.

The lords, at that time, were accustomed, as they always had been, to sit regularly in their seats, which undoubtedly added weight to their proceedings; but, soon after, they broke through this decorum so far, that the king himself † took notice of it, and desired the lords would, for the future, continue in their places, and not run about and join in conversation during debates; which he thought unbecoming the decency and

dignity of the house. Increase of The Duke of York's influence daily increasing, York's in- his favourites, who were all of his own religion,

were the chief persons promoted. “He had so powerful a party at court, and so many creatures * Lords' Journals.

† Ibid.

the Duke of

fluence.

about the king's person, that he was in a manner A.D. 1670. absolute there, and directed the resolutions of the council. Sir Thomas Clifford was the chief person in the duke's confidence, and was entrusted with the most secret designs of the court.”* When he made the declaration before mentioned, “ that we must have another war with the Dutch,” he spoke the sentiments and resolutions of the Duke of York and the popish faction, who now began to be more open in their proceedings, though from the very time of the Restoration they had been engaged in the same pursuit.

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CHAPTER X.

[Intrigues with France. The two Secret Treaties.-Corruption

of the members of the Cabal Administration.] - Temper of the Court.-Account of the Cabal.—Lord Ashley's advice to the King.–Discovers the King's conversion to Popery.—Lord Rochester.—Proceedings of the Parliament.-Shutting up of the Exchequer opposed by Lord Ashley.--His reasons against it, and letter to Mr. Locke.—Declaration of Indulgence.War declared against the Dutch.

A.D. 1670. [That disgraceful intrigue was now darkly pro

gressing, which has rendered the reign of Charles
the Second the most inglorious in our annals.
Even before the triple alliance, Charles, as ap-
pears from a letter from Rouvigny to. Louis,
published by Sir John Dalrymple, had solicited
a private treaty with France. The attempt was
now renewed with more success. James the Se-
cond, in his autobiography printed in the Mac-
pherson papers, describes it thus : “ The Duke
(himself) speaks of religion to the king, and finds
him resolved to be a catholic. The king appoints

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