Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

his high post only prevented him more fully demonstrating, declined to do it. In vain the king insisted; the archbishop was suspended, and sent to his country house; and Laud, who was hankering earnestly after the primacy, licensed the sermon. Sibthorpe did not fail of his reward; he was appointed chaplain in ordinary-it might have been better termed extraordinary-and received a prebend in Peterborough, and the goodly living of Burton Latimer. Andrew Marvell designated these model churchmen as 'exceedingly pragmatical, intolerably ambitious, and so desperately proud that scarcely any gentleman might come near the tales of their mules.' Such insolence is the eternal concomitant of the reptiles which crawl most obscenely at the foot of a good loaf and fish throne. The subserviency of the clergy was not one of the least evils which a tyrannic court fostered. The people saw more clearly than ever that the church under such circumstances would become the stanch ally of despotism; and many even of its own honourable members, in the higher walks of life, shrunk away from it, and joined the ranks of the puritans, for no other reason than that they were resolute for the liberty of the subject."

In the meantime the people were crying out for a Parliament, and refusing money till Parliament should assemble. So at length the writs were issued, but in the course of the very week preceding the re-assembling the king demanded one hundred and seventy-three thousand four hundred and eleven pounds for the expedition to Rochelle, and instead of waiting for the grant from the Commons, ordered the money to be raised by a commission from the counties. He went so far as to say if the tax was paid he would meet his Parliament cheerfully; if not "he would think of some more speedy way." But the Commissioners shrank in terror from their task, and Charles was obliged to recall the commission. Within twelve days of the recall, he issued an order to raise the money which the counties had refused by a duty on merchandize; but the Ministers shrank from the execution of the order, the judges pronounced it illegal, and the king was compelled to withdraw it, and wait the assembly of the Commons.

The men who assembled in the House of Commons in this memorable Parliament were of no ordinary standing, either in fortune, ability, or determination. Westminster sent Bradshaw-one of the Commons with whom the king subsequently became painfully associated-Huntingdon sent up Oliver Cromwell. Hampden, Selden, Pym, Hollis, Eliot, Diggen, Coke, Wentworth-afterwards Strafford-were among the four hundred

who filled the benches "with intellects illumined by the study of the orators, lawgivers, and philosophers of republican Greece, animated with the great principles of Christianity, and with resolutions like iron."

Before the opening of Parliament the king, in the hope probably of conciliating the Commons, released from gaol all those who had been imprisoned for refusing to pay the forced loan; he restored Archbishop Abbot to the primacy; and he liberated the Earl of Bristol, whom he had sent to the Tower on a charge of high treason. But standing before the stern men, who had been sent to do battle for the rights of the people,

[graphic][merged small][subsumed][merged small]

he could not forbear his old habit of scolding and threatening, and of offering insults to those whose friendship it was his policy as well as his duty to obtain. Said he:-"I have called you together, judging a Parliament to be the ancient, speediest, and best way to give such supply as to secure ourselves and save our friends from imminent ruin. Every man must now do according to his conscience; wherefore, if you, which God forbid, should not do your duties in contributing what this state at this time needs, I must, in discharge of my conscience, use those other

means which God hath put into my hands, to save that which the follies of other men may otherwise hazard to lose. Take not this as threatening -I scorn to threaten any but my equals-but as an admonition from him that, both out of nature and duty, hath most care of your preservation and properties."

The Lord Keeper, following on the same side, charged the Commons to remember his Majesty's admonition. "I say remember it," and taught them that the king had assembled them not because their consent was necessary to any of his proceedings, nor because he was without other means of obtaining what he needed; but "it was more agreeable to the goodness of his most gracious disposition."

Passing over the king's message in silence, the Commons addressed themselves to the popular grievances and to the wrongs recently done to liberty and religion; it resolved that a bill should be drawn setting forth the principles contained in Magna Charta, and that the PETITION OF RIGHTS should be presented to the king.

The following four resolutions were passed without a dissentient voice: -1st. That no freeman ought to be restrained or imprisoned, unless some lawful cause of such restraint or imprisonment be expressed. 2nd. That the writ of habeas corpus ought to be granted to every man imprisoned or restrained, though it be at the command of the king or privy council, if he pray for the same. 3rd. That when the return expresses no cause of commitment or restraint, the party ought to be delivered or bailed. 4th. That it is the ancient and undoubted right of every free man, that he hath a full and absolute property in his goods and estates, and that no tax, loan, or benevolence ought to be levied by the king or his ministèrs, without common consent by Act of Parliament.

On these four resolutions the Petition of Right was founded. "It commenced by reminding the monarch of the great statutes passed by some of the most celebrated of his ancestors, which he had been so long and pertinaciously outraging. That the statute De Tallagio non concedendo, made in the reign of Edward I., provided that no tallage nor aid could be levied by the king without consent of Parliament. That by another statute of the 25th year of Edward III., no person could be compelled to make any loan to the king without such sanction; such loans being against reason and the charters of the land. There could be no dispute here-the king stood palpably convicted, and had he acted in ignorance, could do so no longer. It then went on :-'And by other

laws of this realm, it is provided that none shall be charged by any charge or imposition called a benevolence, nor by such like charge; by which statutes before mentioned, and the other good laws and statutes of the realm, your subjects have inherited this freedom, that they should not be compelled to contribute to any tax, tallage, aid, or other like charge, not set by common consent in Parliament: yet, nevertheless, of late, divers commissions, directed to sundry commissioners, in several counties, with instructions, have issued, by pretext whereof your people have been in divers places assembled, and required to lend certain sums of money unto your majesty; and many of them, upon their refusal to do so, have had an unlawful oath administered unto them, not warrantable by the laws and statutes of this realm, and have been constrained to become bound to make appearance and give attendance before your privy council in other places; and others of them have therefore been imprisoned, confined, and sundry other ways molested and disquieted; and divers other charges have been laid and levied upon your people in several counties, by lordslieutenant, commissioners for musters, justices of peace, and others, by command or direction from your majesty or your privy council, against the laws and free customs of this realm.'

[ocr errors]

The petition also pointed out that those who had refused to pay the forced and illegal taxes, had been imprisoned, and that without being put on fair trial; that soldiers had been billeted in private houses contrary to law; and that courts-martial had been called to pass judgment on those only amenable to civil law. Various other grievances were set forth, and when it was given to the king it was received in silence, and instead of writing at the bottom of it, after the established form, "Soit droit fait comme il est desire," he appended-" The king willeth that right be done according to the laws and customs of the realm; and that the statutes be put in due execution, that his subjects may have no cause to complain of any wrongs or oppression, contrary to their just rights and liberties, to the preservation whereof he holds himself in conscience as well obliged as of his own prerogative."

This answer simply meant nothing, and the House expressed bitter disappointment. The king's next step was to intimate his intention of dissolving Parliament, and charging the Commons not to cast or lay aspersion on any minister of his majesty. But, notwitstanding this, John Eliot boldly moved the House to remonstrance. There were others equally bold, and none bolder than Sir Edward Coke-"Why may we not name:

those," he demanded, "who are the cause of all our evils? Let us palliate no longer; if we do God will not prosper us. I think the Duke of Buckingham is the cause, and till the duke be informed thereof we shall never go out with honour, nor sit with honour here. That man is the grievance of grievances. Let us set down the cause of all our disasters, and they will all reflect upon him. As to going to the laws, that is not via regia; our liberties are now impeached; we are deeply concerned; it is not via regia, for the Lords are not participant with our liberties. It is not the king but the duke that saith, We adjure you not to meddle with state affairs or the ministers thereof. Did not his majesty, when prince, attend the Upper House in the prosecution of Lord Chancellor Bacon, and the Lord Treasurer Middlesex ?"

The storm now rose rapidly. "Yea! Yea! 'Tis he! 'Tis he!" was the cry from all sides. The king became alarmed for his favourite, and retracted his previous answer to the petition of rights, inscribing in place. thereof, "Let right be done as is required." Soon after this the Commons voted the supplies the king demanded, and there was a prospect of a better understanding than there had been for a long while. But the Commons were resolved on continuing the work they had begun. Laud was censured for licensing the sermon which the archbishop had disapproved. They then proceeded to inquire into the conduct of Buckingham, and although that exquisitely dandy statesman and field-day soldier affected to have no fear, he was, in reality, in great jeopardy. The Commons prayed the king to remove him from office, and hinted that the tonnage and poundage would not be granted without this was done, and could not be collected without their sanction. king as to be reminded of what he could not do. of the Commons he came down to the House, and members, sharply rated them for their bold speech. to tonnage and poundage," he said, "it is a thing I never intended by you to ask, nor meant by me, I am sure, to grant." He explained that he regarded this rate as an impost exclusively his owna matter of prerogative, not to be affected by the vote of parliament. But, whatever he meant, the intention of the Commons was plain-they meant nothing else than that, as well as any other grants of taxes, should be void without their consent.

Nothing so enraged the Fuming at the message hastily summoning the "As for your consent cannot want, and was

The indignation against the Duke of Buckingham, who was universally regarded as the author of the king's tyrannical course, became each day

« AnteriorContinuar »