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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Meanwhile the payment of the subsidies


How could it be expected that while religious parties on the continent were meeting in a struggle for life and death, the English Parliament would approve of the wavering policy of James I, which aimed at compromise and had hitherto been without results?[414] Quite the contrary: starting with the view that England was the centre of Protestantism and must avert the dangers which assailed it, Parliament declared itself ready, it is true, to pay the King new subsidies, but not until the following year, and on the presumption that he should have accepted and ratified the bills for the welfare of the people which had passed the House.[415] They thought that the common danger to religion arising from the alliance between the Pope and the King of Spain had been brought upon England also by the indulgence hitherto shown to the recusants. Parliament invited the King to draw the sword without further circumlocution for the rescue of the foreign Protestants; in the first instance to break with the power whose army had carried on the war in the Palatinate, but above all to marry the Prince his successor to a lady of the Protestant faith.

The King wished to avoid war because he was anxious lest he should be constantly compelled by Parliament, owing to his repeated want of subsidies, to make fresh concessions, which would affect and diminish the substance of his authority. The Parliament wished for war because it expected that such a proceeding would furnish it with great opportunities for establishing its power.

As soon as the rival powers encountered each other on this ground, all agreement between them was at an end. Parliament interfered still more vigorously than before with the affairs which the King reserved for himself: it wished to induce him to adopt those very measures which he was resolved to avoid. He was expected to break with that power with which it was his principal ambition to become most closely connected. He was expected to take the sword in order to defend the common cause of Protestantism. He was expected to put an end to the indulgence which he had hitherto shown to his Catholic subjects; to do what ran counter to all the expectations which he had raised at Rome and Madrid; and what perhaps, considering the strength of the Catholic element in England, was not without danger to the maintenance of quiet at home. Meanwhile the payment of the subsidies, which he required at once in order to maintain his political position, was indefinitely deferred. Although it was not actually stated, yet it was quite clear that Parliament made the validity of its grants dependent on his compliance with its advice. And on what important matters was that advice offered! The King complained that his prerogative was openly infringed by it; that Parliament wished to decide on his alliances with other sovereigns, and to dictate to him how to conduct the war; that it brought under debate questions of religion and state, and the marriage of his son: what portion of the sovereign power, he asked, was left to him? On the competence which Parliament claimed as its hereditary right, he remarked that it had to thank the favour of his ancestors and himself for this: that he would protect Parliament, but only in proportion to the regard which it showed for the prerogative of his crown.


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