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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Buckingham came forward as a statesman

These views prevailed when Parliament was opened on the 19th of February, 1624. Hitherto it had been one of the principal grievances of the King that Parliament wished to have a voice in affairs that concerned his state and his family. The new Parliament was opened with a detailed account from Buckingham of his negotiations with Spain, which affected both these interests, and with a request that Parliament would report on the great questions awaiting settlement.[437]

The answer of both Houses was, that it was contrary to the honour of the King, to the welfare of his people, to the interest of his children, and even to the terms of his former alliances, to continue the negotiations with Spain any longer: they prayed him to break off negotiations on both subjects, with regard to the Palatinate, as well as with regard to the marriage. It was hailed as a public blessing that the conditions accepted for the sake of the latter would not now be fulfilled.

At this moment Buckingham's wishes were on the side of this policy; for otherwise he could not have advanced a step in his dealings with France. But the King had not so fully made up his mind. He had approved the overtures made to France: but when he was now asked to break with Spain, the power which he most feared, and whose friendship it was the first principle of his policy to cultivate, there was something in him which recoiled from the step. Buckingham acknowledged for the first time that he was not of the same mind with the King. He said that he wished to tread only in one path, whereas the King thought that he could walk in two different paths at once; but that the King must choose between the Spaniards and his own subjects. He asked him whether, supposing that sufficient subsidies of a definite amount were at once granted him, and the support of his subjects with their lives and fortunes were promised him for the future, so far as it might be necessary--whether in that case he would resolve to break off the matrimonial alliance with Spain. He asked for a straightforward and definite answer, that he might be able to give information on the subject beforehand to some members of Parliament. It is evident that this was no longer the attitude of a favourite, who has only to express the opinions and wishes of his prince. Buckingham came forward as a statesman, who opposes his own insight to the aims of his sovereign. He says that if he should concur with the King, he should be a flatterer; that if he should fail to express his own opinion, he should be a traitor. In this matter he could rely on the support of the Prince, who, without estranging himself from his father, still appeared to be less dependent on his will than before.[438] The result was that James I again gave way. He named the sum which he should require for the defence of his kingdom, for the support of his neighbours, and for the discharge of his own debts. Parliament, although it did not grant the whole amount demanded, yet granted a very considerable sum: it agreed to pay three full subsidies and three fifteenths within a year, if the negotiations were broken off. At the beginning of April Buckingham was able to announce to Parliament that the King, in consequence of the advice given to him, had finally broken off negotiations with Spain on both matters.

Other and further concessions of the greatest extent were coupled with this announcement. The King promised that, if a war should break out, he would not entertain any proposals for peace without the advice of Parliament. It was of still more importance, for the moment at least, that he declared himself willing to allow Parliament itself to dispose of the sums it had granted. He said that he wished to have nothing to do with them: that Parliament itself might nominate a treasurer. These likewise were admissions which Buckingham had demanded from the King:[439] but it maybe supposed that he had a previous understanding on the subject with the leaders of the Parliament. He also represented to the King that the removal of the old grievances was an absolute necessity. The monopolies to which James had so long clung, and which he had so obstinately defended, he now in turn gave up; while the penal laws against the Catholics, to which he was averse, were revived.

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