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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Without surrendering however any part of his prerogatives


On

the contrary these negotiations had by degrees assumed a tone of some irritation. Parliament found that the Earl of Salisbury had acted unconstitutionally in proposing to raise the scale of duties without its consent, and would not be content with his reference to the decision of the judges mentioned above, and to the conferences with the merchants. He endeavoured at a private interview with some of the leading members to bring round the opinion to his side: but the House was angry with those who had been present at it, and their good intentions were called in question.[368]

The speeches also, with which the King twice interrupted the proceedings, produced an undesirable effect. He was inclined to meet the general wishes, without surrendering however any part of his prerogatives. But at the same time he expressed himself about these in the exaggerated manner peculiar to him, which was exactly calculated to arouse contradiction.[369] Whilst he was comparing the royal power to the divine, he found that the House on one pretext or another refused even to open a letter which he had addressed to them about the speech of some member which had displeased him: on the contrary he was obliged to receive back into favour the very member who had affronted him. Parliament regarded liberty of speech as the Palladium of its efficiency; foreigners were astonished at the recklessness with which members expressed themselves about the government.

justify;">As a rule the investigation of relative rights has an unfavourable result for those who are in actual possession of authority. The prerogative which the King exalted so highly presented itself to the Parliament in an obnoxious aspect. In the debates on the contract the question was raised, how Sampson's hands could be bound, that is to say, how the King's prerogative could be so far restricted as to prevent him from breaking or overstepping the agreement.

During a dispute with the House of Lords the sentiment was uttered, that the members of the Lower House as representing the Commons ranked higher than the Lords, each of whom represented only himself.[370] It is easy to see how far this principle might lead.

Even his darling project of combining England and Scotland into a single kingdom could not be carried out by the King in the successive sessions of Parliament. One of the leading spirits of the age, Francis Bacon, was on his side in this matter as in others. When it was objected that it was no advantage to the English to take the poverty-stricken Scots into partnership, as for example in commercial affairs, he returned answer, that merchants might reckon in this way, but no one who rose to great views: united with Scotland, England would become one of the greatest monarchies that the world had ever seen; but who did not perceive that a complete fusion of both elements was needed for this? Security against the recurrence of the old divisions could not be obtained until this was effected. Owing to the influence of Bacon, who at that time had become Solicitor-General, the question of the naturalisation of all those born in Scotland after James had ascended the English throne, was decided with but slight opposition, in a sense favourable to the union of the two kingdoms, by the Lord Chancellor and the Judges. The decision however was not accepted by Parliament. And when the question was now raised how far the assent of Parliament was necessary in a case like this, the adverse declaration of the Lord Chancellor was exactly calculated to provoke a contest of principle in this matter also.[371] With the advice of the Lord Chancellor and the Council James had declared himself King of Great Britain, and had expressed the wish that the names of England and Scotland might be henceforth obliterated; but his Proclamation was not considered sufficient without the assent of Parliament; and in this case the judges took the side of the Parliament. The dynastic ideas with which James had commenced his reign could not but serve to resuscitate the claim of Parliament to the possession of the legislative power. At other times the precedents adduced by the Lord Chancellor in the debate on the 'post-nati' might have controlled their decision: at the present time they no longer made any impression. The opposition of political ideas came to the surface in this matter as in others. The King held the strongly monarchical view that the populations of both countries were united with one another by the mere fact of their being both subject to him. To this the Parliament opposed the doctrine that the two crowns were distinct sovereignties, and that the legislation of the two countries could not be united. They wished to fetter the King to the old legal position which they were far more anxious to contract than to expand.


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