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Mr Grimston's Speech

On 7 November 1640, the new House of Commons met for the first full day of business. MPs began by presenting petitions from people who had grievances against the government, including from the wives of imprisoned religious dissidents. The first major address was delivered by Harbottle Grimston (1603-1685). Grimston was a barrister from Essex who represented Colchester in Parliament. In this speech, Grimston summarized what he thought the government had done wrong: how it had mishandled previous parliaments and mistreated political critics, corrupted religion, and ignored the law. He called for those responsible to be punished. Words like this could only be said in Parliament, thanks to the privilege of Parliamentary ‘free speech'. A transcript of Grimston's remarks, probably prepared with Grimston's assistance, circulated widely in handwriting. These handwritten transcripts of parliamentary speeches were one of the major ways that political critics like Grimston could broadcast their views.