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this kingdom now enjoyeth; having the true and free profession of the Gospel, under our most gracious sovereign lord King James, the most great, learned, and religious king that ever reigned therein."
This billing and cooing was, however, short-lived, for after passing sundry cruel laws against the Papists, the House of Commons began to display a sense of its importance that must have astounded the King. It declared on one occasion that it alone was the judge of the election-returns of its Members. On another, it decided that Members were free from arrest, and sent to the Tower the Warder of the Fleet Prison for contempt in not giving up Sir Thomas Shirley, arrested for debt. Then followed a document, drawn up by a Committee of the House, and addressed to the King, which summed up their opinion of their rights and privileges in these words :-" Our privileges are our right and due inheritance, no less than our lands and goods." Such volcanic language as this, brought a trumpetblast from the indignant King. "The state of Monarchy,” he said to the Parliament of 1610, "is the supremest thing upon earth, for Kings are not only God's Lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God's throne, but even by God himself they are called Gods. Kings have like power with God; they make and unmake their subjects, have power of life and death; are judges over all their subjects and in all causes, and are accountable to God alone." Elizabeth never uttered such thunderbolts as these. Her custom was simply to send for the mischiefmakers in the House, and threaten them with the rack. Conduct so energetic had the desired effect; but the pedantic speech-making of the milder James had no terrors for Parliament. On the contrary, they persisted
in their audacious course, and even went so far as to adopt the strategy of the old Parliaments, which often adjourned chuckling at having voted no subsidies. This period-1614-1620-is described as "halcyon days in England; no taxes being paid, trade open to all parts of the world, profound peace.
The struggle between James and Parliament grew more and more obstinate. When he dissolved the Parliament of 1620, the Commons entered a vigorous. protest on their journals. The King sent for them,
and rent out the protestation with his own hand," denouncing "the ill-tempered spirits" who had contrived it. This time, however, his anger took a more practical turn, for he sent Sir Edward Coke, the great lawyer, and Sir R. Philips to the Tower, and Messrs. Selden, Pym, and Mallory to other "prisons and confinements."
The Parliament of 1623 was eager to support Protestant Germany in a war against Catholic Germany, and agreed to vote large subsidies, but on condition that "eight citizens of London were appointed treasurers of the fund, and "two other selected persons to be His Majesty's Privy Council for the war," and, further, "that all these should be accountable to the Commons in Parliament." This was considered "an extraordinary innovation," as indeed it was; but it arose from the conviction of Parliament that the King's Ministers were all corrupt men. The chief of them, the Duke of Buckingham, it cordially detested.
We find a glaring proof of the prevalent dishonesty in high places in the conduct of the Lord Chancellor, the learned Bacon. This celebrated man began life as a lawyer. He entered the House of Commons in Eliza
beth's reign, but made no further progress at that period. James, appreciating his great abilities, advanced him rapidly, until he reached the woolsack* in 1618. Not long afterwards, he was impeached by the Commons, and tried by the Lords for selling places and privileges within his gift. He was condemned to imprisonment in the Tower; £40,000 fine, and future disqualification -1621. The accusation and sentence were principally inspired by the bitter hostility of Parliament to Buckingham, whose creature it considered Bacon to be. The King remitted the imprisonment and fine, but the disgraced Lord Chancellor, fortunately for posterity, retired from public life, and gave himself up to philosophy. His intellect was the greatest of his age. Since Aristotle, no such master-mind had appeared.†
One of the last acts of Parliament in this reign was to abolish those grants of monopolies by the Crown in which Elizabeth had so freely indulged. One case only was excepted, that of a new invention, to which a monopoly for fourteen years was allowed. This was the origin of the familiar Patent Law. The first lottery drawn in England was instituted in this reign.
It is perhaps worthy of notice that in the struggles between Parliament and James, the House of Commons was always in the van. This may be attributed to the
* The woolsack was first introduced in the House of Lords as the Chancellor's seat in the time of Elizabeth as a memento of an Act which was passed against the exportation of wool, that commodity being then the main source of the national wealth of England. It is composed of a large square bag of wool without either back or arms, and covered with red cloth.
† Bacon is called the Father of Experimental Philosophy, since he proposed that facts, instead of hypothesis, should be the basis of all reasoning. He wrote copiously on History, Politics, Morals, and Philosophy. In his "Novum Organum he attacked the deductive method of Aristotle's Logic and advocated his own-the inductive.
strategy of the Lords who, though just as eager for the reduction of the Royal prerogative, did not desire to figure too prominently. The perfect accord between them is seen in the fact that the Commons constantly abandoned what the Lords refused to sanction. Their joint action was, of course, necessary to any successful attack on the Crown. In this way the old alliance of the Nobles and Middle Class was gradually working miracles in the cause of Constitutional Government.
The next reign begot events that nullified for a time this ancient partnership, and the result of the breach was after years of turmoil the advent of a subtle despot who “ruled all things according to his own will.”
The contest which had arisen in the previous reign. between Parliament and the King was based on the determination of the Nation, through its representatives, not to be governed by Absolute Monarchy. The struggle of the Nobles and Middle Class against despotic power, which had begun in the days of the Magna Charta, 1215, had been continued for over four centuries, and, except in the interval occupied by the Tudor dynasty, the Nation, through Parliament, had constantly acquired increased control over its destinies. In spite of King James's lofty notions of his prerogative, Parliamentary Government steadily advanced; but the reign of Charles I. was destined to witness the eclipse of both Parliament and King.
The temporary overthrow of the ancient Government must be ascribed more to glaring defects in the nature of Charles I., than to want of intelligence. His alternate waywardness, indecision, and levity, to say nothing of his childish duplicity, exposed him to the pernicious counsels of incompetent and unprincipled men. Such
a character as his coming in contact with the passions of that time necessarily entailed the catastrophe which ensued. The unfortunate Charles is well described in a phrase of the Latin poet, Nil fuit unquam sic impar sibi-no man ever exhibited such a mass of inconsistencies and contradictions. This much said, let us follow the events.
Charles I., son of James, ascended the throne in 1625. He was twenty-five when his reign began, and three months afterwards married Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV., one of the wisest and best of French Kings.
Soon after his accession he engaged in war with Spain. on religious grounds, and summoned his first Parliament. to obtain supplies. Their antipathy to the Duke of Buckingham, the Minister of Charles, as he had been of his father, was so great that they procrastinated until the King in anger dissolved Parliament. As no money had been voted, Charles resorted to the old expedient of forced loans. This measure led to grievous exactions, and yet was inadequate.
The King resolved then to call a second Parliament— 1626. The new House of Commons was in scarcely a better mood than its predecessor. Still it showed a disposition at times to vote supplies, but some impetuous act of Charles led to new difficulties. He imprisoned two Members of the Commons for language offensive to him, and likewise a Member of the Lords, the Earl of Arundel. The Lords, by conciliation, effected the release of the Members of the Commons, and obtained the discharge of their own Member by an unanimous demand. Finding the Commons still lingering over the supply so frequently called for, Charles dissolved Parliament a second time within a year. New schemes were adopted