« PreviousContinue »
SIR JOHN ELIOT (1590–1632)
MONG the famous statesmen and orators of the Parliaments of A Charles I. Sir John Eliot occupied a high position, and was a leader among those who protested against the arbitrary acts of the King. The impeachment of the Duke of Buckingham was due to a powerful speech made by him, and for this he was imprisoned for a time in the Tower. Again, in 1629, he offended the King by remonstrating against his acts of tyranny, and was once more sent to prison for his boldness. Here, as he refused to retract, he was confined in a dark and cheerless apartment which ruined his health.
As an orator Eliot had remarkable powers. “He had,” says Forster, “some of the highest qualities as an orator—singular power of statement, clearness and facility in handling details, pointed classical allusions, keen and logical argument, forcible and rich declama
[On the 3d of June, 1628, Eliot delivered a bold speech in the House of Commons, in support of the “Petition of Right,” in which he brought severe and daring charges against the delinquency of the Government, attacking it in a strenuous manner, which strongly recalls that of Demosthenes. We give his eloquent peroration.]
The exchequer, you know, is empty, and the reputation thereof gone; the ancient lands are sold ; the jewels pawned ; the plate engaged ; the debt still great ; almost all charges, both ordinary and extraordinary, borne up by projects | What poverty can be greater 2 What necessity so great? What perfect English heart is not almost dissolved into sorrow for this truth 2
For the oppression of the subject, which, as I remember, is the next particular I proposed, it needs no demonstration. The whole kingdom is a proof; and, for the exhausting of our treasures, that very oppression
462 SIR JOHN ELIOT
speaks it. What waste of our provisions, what consumption of our ships, what destruction of our men there hath been 2 Witness that expedition to Algiers; witness that with Mansfeldt; witness that to Cadiz ; witness the next—witness that to Rhe; witness the last (I pray God we may never have more such witnesses 1)—witness, likewise, the Palatinate; witness Denmark, witness the Turks, witness the Dunkirkers, witness all ! What losses we have sustained How we are impaired in munitions, in ships, in men It is beyond contradiction that we were never so weakened, nor ever had less hope how to be restored. These, Mr. Speaker, are our dangers, these are they who do threaten us, and these are, like the Trojan horse, brought in cunningly to surprise us. In these do lurk the strongest of our enemies, ready to issue on us; and if we do not speedily expel them, these are the signs, these are the invitations to others' These will so prepare their entrance that we shall have no means left of refuge or defence; for if we have these enemies at home, how can we strive with those that are abroad 2 If we be free from these, no other can impeach us. Our ancient English virtue (like the old Spartan valor) cleared from these disorders—our being in sincerity of religion and once made friends with Heaven ; having maturity of councils, sufficiency of generals, incorruption of officers, opulency in the King, liberty in the people, repletion in treasure, plenty of provisions, reparation of ships, preservation of men—our ancient English virtue, I say, thus rectified, will secure us; and unless there be a speedy reformation in these, I know not what hopes or expectations we can have. These are the things, sir, I shall desire to have taken into consideration ; that as we are the great council of the kingdom, and have the apprehension of these dangers, we may truly represent them unto the King, which I conceive we are bound to do by a triple obligation—of duty to God, of duty to his Majesty, and of duty to our country. And therefore I wish it may so stand with the wisdom and judgment of the House that these things may be drawn into the body of remonstrance, and in all humility expressed, with a prayer to his Majesty that, for the safety of himself, for the safety of the kingdom, and for the safety of religion, he will be pleased to give us time to make perfect inquisition thereof, or to take them into his own wisdom, and there give them such timely reformation as the necessity and justice of the case doth import. And thus, sir, with a large affection and loyalty to his Majesty, and with a firm duty and service to my country, I have suddenly (and it may be with some disorder) expressed the weak apprehensions I have ; wherein if I erred, I humbly crave your pardon, and so submit myself to the cen
sure of the House.
JOHN PYM (1584–1643)
some fellow-members to present a petition to James I., this Scotch King of England cried out in his native dialect, “Chairs chairs here be twal kyngs comin.” And as King Pym he was known till the day of his death. In the Parliaments of Charles I. Pym was one of the most active of the members in opposition to the arbitrary acts of the king. In 1628 he ably supported Sir John Eliot in the debate on the Petition of Right, and in the Short Parliament of 1640 he opened the session in a short and sharp summing up of the unsupportable state of affairs. In the Long Parliament that followed, Pym was the leader in the movement which led to the impeachment and execution of the Earl of Strafford, and in all the other crises of the times till war became inevitable. Before it began he died, and was buried with great pomp and magnificence in Westminster Abbey. When Charles II. came to the throne his remains were taken up and cast into a churchyard pit—a pitiful piece of ineffective vengeance.
W HEN Pym, as a leader in the Parliamentary opposition, went with
LAW THE BASIS OF LIBERTY
[Pym, the leader of Parliament in the revolution against the Stuarts, was the support and successor of Eliot in this movement, and much the ablest orator in the Long Parliament. John Hampden, whose name is almost a synonym for English liberty, was no orator, but was an earnest seconder of Pym in the proceedings against Strafford, who had acted as the chief agent of Charles I. in his arbitrary acts, and paid for this on the scaffold. We give the opening of the reply to Strafford in the Parliament of 1641.]
Many days have been spent in maintenance of the impeachment of
the Earl of Strafford by the House of Commons, whereby he stands
charged with high treason; and your lordships have heard his defence
464 John PYM
with patience, and with as much favor as justice will allow. We have passed through our evidence, and the result is that it remains clearly proved that the Earl of Strafford hath endeavored, by his words, actions, and counsels, to subvert the fundamental laws of England and Ireland, and to introduce an arbitrary and tyrannical government. This will best appear if the quality of the offense be examined by that law to which he himself appealed, that universal, that supreme law, salus populf, the welfare of the people ! This is the element of all laws, out of which they are derived; the end of all laws to which they are designed, and in which they are perfected. The offense comprehends all other offenses. Here you shall find several treasons, murders, rapines, oppressions, perjuries. The earth hath a seminary virtue, whereby it doth produce all herbs and plants and other vegetables; there is in this crime a seminary of all evils hurtful to the State; and if you consider the reason of it, it must needs be so. The law is that which puts a difference betwixt good and evil; betwixt just and unjust. If you take away the law, all things will fall into a confusion. Every man will become a law to himself, which, in the depraved condition of human nature, must needs produce many great enormities. Lust will become a law, and envy will become a law ; covetousness and ambition will become laws; and what dictates, what decisions, such laws will produce may easily be discerned in the late government of Ireland The law hath a power to prevent, to restrain, to repair evils; without this, all kind of mischief and distempers will break in upon a State. It is the law that doth entitle the King to the allegiance and service of his people; it entitles the people to the protection and justice of the King. It is God alone who subsists by Himself, all other things subsist in a mutual dependence and relation. He was a wise man who said that the King subsisted by the field that is tilled ; it is the labor of the people that supports the Crown ; if you take away the protection of the King, the vigor and cheerfulness of allegiance will be taken away, though the obligation remains. The law is the boundary, the measure between the King's prerogative and the people's liberty. While these move in their own orbs, they are a support and a security to one another—the prerogative a cover and defence to the liberty of the people, and the people by their liberty are enabled to be a foundation to the prerogative, but if these bounds be so removed that they enter into contention and conflict, one of these mischiefs must ensue:—if the prerogative of the King overwhelm the liberty of the people, it will be turned into tyranny ; if liberty undermine the prerogative, it will grow into anarchy.
John PYM 465
The doctrine of the Papists, Fides non est servanda cum hereticis”, is an abominable doctrine; yet that other tenet, more peculiar to the Jesuits, is more pernicious, whereby subjects are discharged from their oath of allegiance to their prince, whensoever the Pope pleaseth ; this may be added to make the third no less mischievous and destructive to human society than either of the rest. That the King is not bound by that oath which he hath taken to observe the laws of the kingdom ; but may, when he sees cause, lay taxes and burdens upon them without their consent, contrary to the laws and liberties of the kingdom—this hath been preached and published by divers persons, and this is that which hath been practiced in Ireland by the Earl of Strafford, in his government there, and endeavored to be brought into England by his counsel here. . It is the end of government that all accidents and events, all counsels and designs, should be improved to the public good ; but this arbitrary power is apt to dispose all to the maintenance of itself. The wisdom of the council-table, the authority of the courts of justice, the industry of all the officers of the Crown, have been most carefully exercised in this; the learning of our divines, the jurisdiction of our bishops have been molded and disposed to the same effect, which though it were begun before the Earl of Strafford's employment, yet it hath been exceedingly furthered and advanced by him. Under this color and pretence of maintaining the King's power and prerogative, many dangerous practices against the peace and safety of the kingdom have been undertaken and promoted. The increase of popery and the favors and encouragement of papists have been, and still are, a great grievance and danger to the kingdom ; the innovation, in matters of religion, the usurpations of the clergy, the manifold burdens and taxations upon the people, have been a great cause of our present distempers and disorders; and yet those who have been chief furtherers and actors of such mischiefs have had their credit and authority from this that they were forward to maintain this power. The Earl of Strafford had the first rise of his greatness from this, and in his apology and defense, as your 1ordships have heard, this hath had a main part. The royal power and majesty of kings is most glorious in the prosperity and happiness of the people; the perfection of all things consists in the end for which they were ordained ; God only is his own end ; all other things have a further end beyond themselves, in attaining whereof their own happiness consists. If the means and end be set in opposition to one another, it must needs cause impotency and defect of both.
*You ought not to keep faith with heretics.