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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

The commission however was so numerous


The

speech with which King James opened the session on the 19th of March 1604, immediately before the conclusion of the first year of his reign, has been often and often reproduced. It is full of the ideas with which his mind was principally occupied, of the union of both kingdoms in one great whole, and of the establishment of religious uniformity. He thought that in neither of the two kingdoms ought the memory of their special privileges to be kept alive, for they were pure monarchies from the first: no privilege could separate them from their head. He explicitly called the Puritans an ochlocratic sect.

It is extraordinary that, while he sought to win men's affections, it was his fortune to use expressions which were sure to provoke the strongest religious and political antipathies.

Parliament acknowledged his succession to be rightful and lawful, and granted to him, as to his predecessors, tonnage and poundage, i.e. the right of levying customs, for his life: it arranged according to his wishes for the withdrawal of many sentences which had been pronounced against his interest; but in other matters it offered him from the very first persistent opposition. Contrary to what might have been expected, the first point concerned the validity of the elections.

In Buckinghamshire the King's officers had annulled an election on the ground of illegality, and had held a second. The Lower

House found that this was improper, on the ground that the right of deciding in matters concerning the election of representatives belonged from ancient times to the House of Commons alone. They declined to confer on this subject with the Privy Council, or with the Upper House. Ill-will and jealousy were excited against those of higher rank who had wished to bring one of their own party into the House of Commons, and the tempers of the members seemed to be becoming no little inflamed. At last, by the personal mediation of the King,[325] the Lower House was induced to allow both of the elected candidates to be unseated, and a third to be elected in their place. Even this it agreed to reluctantly; but it was at least its own resolution, and not the result of official influence: and the Speaker issued his writ for a new election. One of the foremost principles of parliamentary life, that the scrutiny of elections belonged to the Parliament alone, was in this manner indubitably established afresh.

Even his ideas on the union of the two kingdoms, which were nearest to his heart, were shared by few members of the Lower House; and he was obliged to raise the question by a new and urgent address. A commission of both Houses was indeed nominated to deliberate together with the Scots on the execution of the plan. The commission however was so numerous, and so large a number was required to be actually present for the transaction of business, that it was evident beforehand that no result would be achieved; especially as it was confidently to be expected that the Scots would appoint just as numerous a commission on their side.[326] And the King was already aware that the opposition against him was not confined to the Lower House, but in this matter at least was most widely diffused. The proclamation was already drawn up by which he intended to declare himself King of Great Britain. The judges were consulted by the Upper House, but their sentence favoured the view that this alteration could not take place without disadvantage to the State.


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