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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Whose merits no one can discover


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inward truthfulness of the

former. King James delivers many other well-weighed principles of calm wisdom: it is only extraordinary how little his own practice corresponded with them.[383] When in one of his earlier writings we mark the seriousness with which he speaks of the duty incumbent on a king of testing men of talent, of measuring their capacity, and of appointing his servants not according to inclination but according to merit, we should expect to find him in this respect a careful and conscientious ruler. Instead of this we find that he always has favourites, whose merits no one can discover; to whom he stands in the extraordinarily compound relation of father, teacher, and friend, and to whom he allows a share in the power which he possesses. He could never free himself from a ruinous prodigality towards those about him, in spite of resolutions of amendment. How soon were the costly objects flung away which Elizabeth had collected and left behind at her death![384] How many possessions or sources of revenue accruing to the crown did he allow to pass into private hands! Any regulation of his household expenditure was as little to be expected from him in England as in Scotland. Like the princes of the thirteenth century he considered that the royal power assigned him privileges and advantages in which he had a full right to allow his favourites and servants to share. Not seldom the most scandalous abuses were connected with these: for instance, when the court was to be provided with the common necessaries
of life during its journeys, it was required that they should be delivered to it at low prices: the servants exacted more supplies than were wanted, and then sold the surplus for their own profit. In grotesque contrast with the disgraceful cupidity of his attendants is the exaggerated conception which James had formed for himself of the ideal importance of the royal authority, which at that time some persons attempted with metaphysical acuteness to lay down almost in the same terms as the attributes of the Deity. He had similar notions about his dignity and the unconditional obligation of his subjects. Even in his Parliamentary speeches he did not refrain from expressing them. He made no secret of them in his life in the country, where he met with unbounded veneration from every one. It was remarked as a point of contrast between him and Elizabeth, that while she had always spoken of the love of her subjects, James on the contrary was always talking of the obedience which they owed him on the ground of divine and human right. And people recognised many other points of contrast between them besides this.[385] When the Queen had formed a resolution, she had never shrunk from the trouble of directing her attention to its execution even in the minutest details. King James did not possess this ardour; for he could not descend from the world of studies and general views in which he lived, to take a searching interest in the business of the government or of justice. He had indeed been known to say that it was annoying to him to hear the arguments on both sides quietly discussed in a question of right submitted to him; for that in that case he was unable to come to any conclusion. The Queen loved gallant men and characters distinguished for boldness: the King was without any sense of military merit, and felt uncomfortable in the presence of men of enterprising spirit. He thought that he could only trust those whom he had chained to himself by favours, presents, and benefits. The Queen served as a pattern of everything which was proper and becoming. James, who restricted himself to the intercourse of a few intimate friends, formed attachments which he thought were to serve as the rule of life. He himself was slovenly; in England, as formerly in Scotland, he neglected his appearance, and indulged in eccentricities which appeared repulsive to others, and were taken amiss from him. Even at that time there was a common feeling in England in favour of what is becoming in good society; and although the feeling was for a long time less deeply engraved on men's minds, and less sensitive to every outrage than it became at a later period, men did not pardon the King for coming into collision with it.


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