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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Which after such long prescription was not even necessary


Charles

I was not in a position to be able to regard it. It was not that he had any thought of curtailing the rights of the English Church or of entering on any other course in great questions of general policy than that which had been laid down in conjunction with Parliament. His marriage also was a preparation for the conflict with Spain; but if it was not so decidedly opposed to the common feeling of the country as a Spanish marriage, yet it was far from being in accordance with it. The pledges which had been given on that occasion prevented the King from adopting exclusively Protestant points of view, and from identifying himself completely with his people.

But there was another reason for the King's adherence to his agreement. He was as little inclined as his father had been to allow the Parliament to exercise any influence on ecclesiastical affairs. Much unpleasant surprise was created at that time by the writings of Dr. Montague, in which he treated the Roman Church with forbearance, and Puritanism with scorn and hatred. Parliament wished to institute proceedings against the author. The King did not take him under his protection; but on the request of some dignitaries of the English Church he transferred the matter to his own tribunal. He regarded it moreover as an undoubted element of his prerogative to dispense with the statutes passed by Parliament, so that the concessions which were expressed in the marriage compact appeared to him quite justifiable.

style="text-align: justify;">We see how closely this affected the most important question of English constitutional law. The universal competence of Parliament is here opposed to the authority of the King, strengthened by his ecclesiastical functions. And we understand how Parliament, in spite of the urgent need created by itself, hesitated to fulfil the expectations of the King.

It could not absolutely refuse to make any grant: it offered him two subsidies, 'fruits of its love' as they were termed. But the King had expected a far stronger proof of devotion. What importance could be attached to such an insignificant sum in prospect of so tremendous an undertaking as a war against Spain? The grant itself implied a sort of refusal.

But the Lower House also attempted to introduce a most extensive innovation in regard to finance. The customs formed one of the main sources of the revenue of the crown, without which it could not be supported. They had been increased by the last government on the ground of its right to tonnage and poundage, although, as we saw, not without opposition.[452] The constitutional question was whether the customs were properly to be regarded as a tax, and accordingly dependent on the grant of Parliament, or whether they were absolutely appropriated to the crown by right derived from long prescription: for since the time of Edward IV, tonnage and poundage had been granted to every king for the whole period of his reign. The controversies arising on the subject under James had brought to light the daily increasing importance conferred by the growth of commerce on this source of revenue, which certainly assured to the crown, if not for extraordinary undertakings, yet for the conduct of the ordinary business of the state, a certain independence of the grants of Parliament. The Lower House was now disinclined, both on principle and under the painful excitement of the moment, to renew the grant on these terms: it therefore conferred the right to tonnage and poundage on the King only for a year. But the import of this restriction was plain enough. The popular leaders were not satisfied with granting the King very inadequate support for the war, but they sought to make him dependent even in time of peace on the goodwill of the Lower House. The resolution was rejected by the Upper House, and it appeared to the King himself as an affront. For why should he be refused what had been secured to his predecessors during a century and a half? The granting of supplies for life he regarded as a mere form, which after such long prescription was not even necessary. He thought himself entitled, even without such a grant, to have the duties levied in his own name as before.


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