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No courts of judicature could give redress to the people for these illegal sufferings, whilst judges were displaced by the king, for not complying with his will, and so awed, that they durst not do their duties: for to hold a rod over them, the clause, Quamdiu se bene gesserint was left out of their patents, and a new clause, Durante bene placito, inserted.
New illegal oaths were enforced upon the subjects, and new judicatories erected without law; and when commissions were granted for examining the excess of fees, and great exactions discovered, the delinquents were compounded with, not only for the time past, but immunity to offend for the time to come; which, instead of redressing, did confirm and encrease the grievance of the subjects.
By this time, all thoughts of ever having a parliament again, were quite banished; so many oppres sions had been set on foot, so many illegal actions done, that the only way to justify the mischiefs already done, was to do that one greater, to take away the means which was ordained to redress them, the lawful government of England by parliaments.
Whilst the kingdom was in this condition, the serious and just men of England, who were no way interested in the emolument of these oppressions, could not but entertain sad thoughts and presages, of what mischief must needs follow so great an injustice; that things carried so far on in a wrong way,
must needs either enslave themselves and posterity for ever, or require a vindication so sharp and smarting, as that the nation would groan under it; and though the times were jolly for the present, yet having observed the judgment of God upon other secure nations, they could not choose but fear the sequel. Another sort of men, and especially lords and gentlemen, by whom the pressures of the government were not much felt, who enjoyed their own plentiful fortunes, with little or insensible detriment, looking no further than their present, safety and prosperity, and the yet undisturbed peace of the nation, whilst other kingdoms were embroiled in calamities, and Germany sadly wasted by a sharp war; did nothing but applaud the happiness of England, and called those ungrateful and factious spirits, who complained of the breach of laws and liberties; that the kingdom abounded with wealth, plenty, and all kind of elegancies more than ever; that it was for the honour of a people that the monarch should live splendidly, and not be curbed at all in his prerogative, which would bring him into the greater esteem with other princes, and more enable him to prevail in treaties; that what they suffered by monopolies, was insensible, and not grievous, if compared with other states; that the duke of Tuscany sate heavier upon his people in that very kind; that the French king had made himself an absolute lord, and quite depressed
the power of parliaments, which had been there as great as in any kingdom, and yet that France flourished, and the gentry lived well; that the Austrian princes, especially in Spain, laid heavy burdens upon their subjects.
Thus did many of the English gentry, by way of comparison, in ordinary discourse, plead for their own servitude.
The courtiers would begin to dispute against parliaments in their ordinary discourse, that they were cruel to those whom the king favoured, and too injurious to his prerogative; that the late parliament stood upon too high terms with the king; and that they hoped the king should never need any more parliaments. Some of the greatest statesmen and privy counsellors, would ordinarily laugh at the ancient language of England, when the word, liberty of the subject, was named. But these gentlemen, who seemed so forward in taking up their own yoke, were but a small part of the nation (though a number considerable enough to make a reformation hard) compared with those gentlemen who were sensible of their birthughts, and the true interest of the kingdom; on which side the common people in the generality, and country freeholders stood, who would rationally argue of their own rights, and those oppressions that were laid upon them.
But the sins of the English nation were too great
to let them hope for an easy or speedy redress of such grievances; and the manners of the people so much corrupted, as by degrees they became of that temper, which the historian speaks of his Romans, ut nec mala, nec remedia ferre possent; they could neither suffer those pressures patiently, nor quietly en dure the cure of them. Prophaneness too much abounded every where; and which is most strange, where there was no religion, yet there was superstition. Luxury in diet, and excess both in meat and drink, was crept into the kingdom in a high degree, not only in the quantity, but in the wanton curiosity. And in abuse of those good creatures which God had bestowed upon this plentiful land, they mixed the vices of divers nations, catching at every thing that was new and foreign.
-Non vulgo nota placebant
Gaudia, non usu plebejo trita voluptas. PETR. "Old known delight
They scorn, and vulgar bare-worn pleasure slight."
As much pride and excess was in apparel, almost among all degrees of people, in new fangled and various fashioned attire; they not only imitated, but excelled their foreign patterns; and in fantastical gestures and behaviour, the petulancy of most nations in Europe.
Et laxi crines et tot nova nomina vestis, PETR. "Loose hair, and many new found names of clothes."
The serious men groaned for a parliament; but the great statesmen plyed it the harder, to complete that work they had begun, of setting up prerogative above all laws.
The lord Wentworth (afterward created earl of Strafford for his service in that kind) was then labouring to oppress Ireland, of which he was deputy; and to begin that work in a conquered kingdom, which was intended to be afterward wrought by degrees in England: and indeed he had gone very far and prosperously in those ways of tyranny, though very much to the endamaging and setting back of that newly established kingdom.
He was a man of great parts, of a deep reach, subtle wit, of spirit and industry to carry on his busiand such a conscience as was fit for that work he was designed to. He understood the right way, and the liberty of his country, as well as any man ; for which, in former parliaments, he stood up stiffly, and seemed an excellent patriot. For those abilities he was soon taken off by the king, and raised in honour, to be employed in a contrary way, for enslaving of his country, which his ambition easily drew him to undertake. To this man, in my opinion, that