In December 1692 John Sheffield, 3rd earl of Mulgrave, intervened in the House of Lords to speak in favour of the Place Bill – a measure aimed at limiting the numbers of MPs permitted to hold offices in the armed forces and central government. At one point Mulgrave equated the practice to that of a farce, with the MPs standing for actors indulging in dialogues with themselves, first in one tone and then another. Later in the speech, he reflected on the happy condition of England and the enslaved quality of the French, who were, he posited, envious of England's traditional liberties. Just over two years later, Mulgrave was himself in the spotlight when he came under investigation for accepting douceurs from the City of London in relation to his development of his new London town house, prompting a second speech to the Lords, this time in his own defence. Both of these speeches were later printed but the second address offers useful insights into the transmission of texts thanks to the survival of a British Library manuscript claiming to represent Mulgrave's speech taken down in short-hand at the time of its delivery. This article attempts to demonstrate how the second speech was adapted for the press and what both speeches reveal about the nature of parliamentary rhetoric in the period and the Lords’ conceptions of honour.
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