Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 42.djvu/305

This page needs to be proofread.
Osborne
Osborne
299

not corroborated (North, Lives, ed. Jessopp, i. 211). The other accusations went equally beyond what the circumstances warranted. He was charged with having 'encroached to himself royal powers by treating of matters of peace and war without the knowledge of the council ; 'with having adopted' an arbitrary and tyrannical way of government by designing to raise an army upon pretence of a war with the French, and then to continue the same as a standing army within this kingdom ; 'with having hindered the meeting of parliament ; with having wasted 231,602l. of the king's treasure on needless pensions and secret services; and, finally, with having procured targe gifts for himself. Only on the first and fourth articles, which dealt respectively with his infringement of the royal prerogative and his connection with the pLot, were divisions challenged in the lower house, but both passed by majorities — of forty-two in one case and twenty-four in the

When the articles were read at the bar of the upper house, motions were made not only that the earl should withdraw, but that he be committed to the Tower. Each was negatived by a large majority, and Shaftesbury, with other whig leaders, entered protests in the 'Lords' Journals.' The action of the majority was disputed on the legal ground that no one charged with treason could be admitted to bail; but serious doubt was Witimale as to whether the articles could. In the absence of more precise particulars, be reasonably interpreted to amoiuii to a charge of treason, or whether, on the severest interpretation, Danby's offences could be treated more than his misdemeanours. On 30 Dec. a prorogation of parliament, which won dissolved in January 1679, deferred further action.

In March 1679 a new parliament met. Danby had used all his private influence to return to the House of Commons men favourable to himself. In this effort he failed, and at Lady-day be accordingly resigned his office of lord treasurer. He received from the king a pardon under the great seal, to which the king ordered the seal to be attached in his presence, together with a warrant creating him a marquis, dated 16 March (Addit. MS. 28091, f. 47). Charles, in bidding him farewell, used every expression of good will, and lightly promised that his minister 'should not (are at all the worse for the malicious prosecution of the parliament.' Burnet adds that Dauby left the treasury quite empty. His friends believed that he would take up his post again 'in convient time, or else keep such station near the king as may make him the same omnipotent figure as before, under the disguise of some other name' (Savile Correspondence, p. 76). But 'the hard-hearted commons of England' had no such anticipation. His impeachment was at once revived. Thereupon a question of high constitutional importance was raised by Danby's friends as to whether the impeachment was abated by the dissolution. A committee of privileges, to whom the point was submitted on 11 March 1679, reported, after a careful scrunity of precedents, that the 'dissolution of the parliament doth not alter the state of the impeachment brought up by the commons in that parliament.' When the motion for the earl's committal was made a second time in the House of Lords, it was accented without objection. Meanwhile Danby had left London for Wimbledon, in obedience, he asserted, to the king's wish (Hatton Corresp. i. 185-6). But the lords, perhaps with a view to protecting him from the results of conviction, passed a bill condemning him, us in the case of Clarendon, to banishment unless he surrendered. The commons rejected the bill for his banishment, and substituted a bill of attainder which they hastily passed through all its stages. To prevent worse consequences, Danby thereupon came to London, and surrendered to the usher of the black rod (10 April). He was at once sent to the Tower. A written answer to the charges was demanded of him, and he pleaded the pardon obtained from the king (21 April 1679). Even among his friends such a course was deemed impolitic, because it was clearly a confession of the fact (North, i. 211). the commons straightway resolved that the pardon was illegal and the plea void, and, proceeding to the bar of the House of Lords, demanded that judgment should be passed upon the prisoner. They further denied the right of the bishops to vote on the validity of the king's pardon, and demanded the appointment of a committee of both houses to regulate the further procedure of the impeachment. The peers assented to the appointment of the committee, but declared that the bishops had a right to sit and vote in parliament on capital cases until sentence of death should be pronounced. Before the matter went further parliament was dissolved in July.

No serious attempt was thenceforth made to bring Danby to trial, but for nearly five years he lay a prisoner in the Tower. He was often seriously ill, but, according to Heresby, he bore his misfortunes with remarkable patience and equanimity. His wife and family seem to have had free access to his apartments. On 17 Aug. 1683 William