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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

On the 7th of June he dissolved Parliament


In

order to give the force of a general resolution to their assertion, that in England the prerogative did not include the fixing of the amount of taxes and customs without the consent of Parliament, the Commons had made proposals for a conference with the Upper House. But hereupon the higher clergy declared themselves hostile, not only to their opinion, but even to the bare project of a conference. Neil, Bishop of Lincoln, affirmed that the oath taken to the King in itself forbade them to participate in such a conference; that the matter affected not so much a branch of the royal prerogative as its very root; that the Lords moreover would have to listen to seditious speeches, the aim and intention of which could only be to bring about a division between the King and his subjects. The Lord Chancellor had asked the judges for their opinion; but they had declined to give any. The result was that the Upper House did not accede to the proposal of a conference.

The Commons were greatly irritated at the resistance which was offered to their first step. They too in conferences which related to other matters disdained to enter into the subjects brought before them. They complained loudly of the insulting expressions of the bishop which had been repeated to them. An exculpatory statement of the Upper House did not content them; they demanded full satisfaction as in an affair of honour, and until this had been furnished them they declared themselves determined

to make no progress with any other matter.

The King however on his side now lost patience at this. He considered that an attack was made on the highest power when the general progress of business was hindered for the sake of a single question, and he appointed a day on which this affair of the subsidy must be disposed of. He said that, if it were not settled, he would dissolve Parliament.

One would not expect such a declaration to change the temper of the Lower House. Speeches were heard still more violent than those previously made. The Scots, to whose influence every untoward occurrence was imputed, were threatened with a repetition of the Sicilian Vespers. There were other members however who counselled moderation; for it almost appeared as if the dissolution of this Parliament might be the dissolution of all parliaments. Commissioners were once more sent to the King in order to give another turn to the negotiations. The King declared that he knew full well how far his rights extended, and that he could not allow his prerogatives to be called in question.[376]

These passionate ebullitions of feeling against the Scots, although they referred to matters of a more alarming, but happily of an entirely different nature, made the King anxious lest the destruction of his favourites, or even his own ruin, might be required to content his adversaries. On the 7th of June he dissolved Parliament. He thought himself entitled to bring up for punishment the loudest and most reckless speakers, as well as some other noted men from whom these speakers had received their impulse, for instance Cornwallis, the former ambassador in Spain. He considered that they had intended to upset the government: not only had they failed, but they themselves must atone for the attempt.[377]

The estrangement was not too great to allow the hope of a reconciliation. It had been represented to the King that he ought not to be ready to regard financial concessions as a compliance unbecoming to the crown, for that in these matters he was at no disadvantage as compared with any person or any foreign power; that on the contrary the decision always proceeded from himself; that he was the head who cared for the welfare of the members. It was said that he need by no means fear that men would make use of his wants to lay fetters on him; that bonds laid by subjects on their sovereigns were merely cobwebs which he might tear asunder at any moment. Even Walter Ralegh had stated this.[378] But the King had no inclination, after the Parliament had repelled his overtures with rude opposition, to expose himself by summoning a new one to new attacks on his prerogatives as he understood them. By the voluntary or forced contributions of different corporations, especially of the clergy and of the great men of the kingdom, he was placed in a condition to carry on his government in the ordinary way. Every measure which would have necessitated a great outlay was avoided.


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