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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

In June he adjourned Parliament


Apart from its importance as affecting individuals, this event is very important in the history of the constitution, which now returned to its former paths. That the Lower House again as in old times was able to procure the fall of one of the highest officials, is an evidence of its growing power. That the First Minister and favourite allowed his intimate friend to fall is a proof of the weakness of the highest authority, which moreover ought itself to have attacked abuses of this kind. Bacon justly remarked that reform would soon reach higher regions.

But while Parliament, which the government had no inclination to withstand openly, thus obtained the ascendancy in domestic matters, it was also already turning its eyes in the direction of foreign affairs. These were times in which a warm religious sympathy was awakened by the advance which the counter-reformation was making in the hereditary dominions of Austria, as well as in France, and by the persecutions which befell the Protestants in both countries. The Spaniards were again engaging in war for the subjugation of the Netherlands. In Parliament, on the other hand, it was thought necessary to combine with the Republic, and to equip a fleet to assist the Huguenots, and even to attack Spain, in order thus to make a diversion in favour of the Palatinate. At the very time of the opening of Parliament the ban of the empire was pronounced against Frederick Elector Palatine amid the sound of trumpets and drums in the Palace at Vienna. This was regarded in the whole Protestant world as an injustice, for it was thought that Ferdinand II had been injured by Frederick only as King of Bohemia, and not as Emperor: and on the same grounds the English Parliament was of opinion that the execution of the ban ought to be hindered by force of arms; and it showed itself dissatisfied that the King sought to meet the evil only by demonstrations and embassies.

We can easily understand that the attitude of Parliament aroused the anxiety of the King. He caused the debates on the war to be put a stop to, remarking that they infringed his prerogative, for which great affairs of this kind were exclusively reserved. And yet, so extraordinary was the complication of affairs that the declarations made in Parliament were not altogether displeasing to him. In June he adjourned Parliament, without formally proroguing it. What was the reason of this? Because Parliament had brought in a new bill containing the severest enactments against Jesuits and Catholic recusants. The King refused to accept it, as by this means the persecution of Protestants in Catholic countries would receive a new impulse. But he was also unwilling to express his refusal in a final shape, because he knew that the wish to hinder the adoption of harsh measures against the Catholics would exercise an influence upon the Spaniards in their negotiations with him.[411] If he had proceeded to a prorogation, he would have been obliged to reject the laws; and he preferred to keep the prospect of them still open, which he was able to do by resorting to the form of an adjournment. He made it a merit in the eyes of the Spaniards that, far from increasing the severity of the penal laws, he did not even enforce them in their existing form, when moreover, if enforced, they would bring him in a large sum. But he was glad to see that people feared that he might do at some future time what at present he had refrained from doing. When he promised the Parliament on his royal word, that he would call it together again without fail in the autumn, he was also influenced by the consideration that he intended the Spaniards to look forward with fear to the resolution which might then be taken. He was greatly pleased that Parliament before dispersing drew up an energetic remonstrance against the persecutions of the Protestants all over the world, and especially against the oppression of his children. Not that he wished to give effect to it: on the contrary he adhered to the policy of assisting his son-in-law only by means of diplomacy: but he desired that the Spaniards should fear a war with England, and he thought that anxiety on this point would induce them and their friends to show themselves conciliatory and respectful.


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