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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Moderation in the attitude of Parliament


[464]

According to Ruszdorf, who was well acquainted with Bassompierre, the latter represented 'hoc facto regem obligatum nihil esse intermissurum, quod ad conservationem fortunae illius queat conducere.'

[465] Siri, Memorie recondite vi. 261.

[466] Letter to Joseph Mead, March 16, 1626: 'It still holds that both France and Spain make exceeding great preparations both for sea and land.--The priests of the Dunkirkers are said to preach that God had delivered us into their hands.' (Court and Times of Charles I, i. 205).

[467] I refer for the fuller explanation of these transactions to my History of the Popes and my French History. My meaning is very fully recognised in an essay in the Revue Germanique, Nov. 1859.

[468] Beaulieu to Pickering. 'It lieth in the way to intercept the salt that cometh from Biscaje and serveth almost all France, and what so ever cometh out of the river of Bourdeaux: besides it commandeth the haven of Rochelle.' (Court and Times of Charles I, i. 257).

CHAPTER VIII.

PARLIAMENT OF 1628. PETITION OF RIGHT.

In the heat of controversy about the supplies to be granted and the liberties to be confirmed by the King in return, it was once harshly said in the Lower House during this Parliament

that it was better to be brought low by foreign enemies than to be obliged to suffer oppression at home. The King answered by saying no less abruptly that it was more honourable for the King to be straitened by the enemies of his country, than to be set at nought by his own subjects.

So much more importance was attached by both sides to domestic than to foreign struggles. But after the last failure both parties had come to feel how much the honour of the country and religion itself suffered from their dissensions. Among the politicians of the time there was a school of learned men, who had studied the old constitution of the country, and wished for nothing more than its restoration. They were seriously bent on establishing an equilibrium between the royal prerogative and the rights of Parliament. Among them were found Edward Coke, John Selden, and John Glanvil; but Robert Cotton may be regarded as the most distinguished of them all, a man who had studied most deeply, and who combined with his studies an insight into the present that was unclouded by passion. To Cotton we owe a report presented by him to the Privy Council, in which he explains that the government should proceed on the old royal road of collecting taxes by grant of Parliament, and indeed should adopt no other method; while at the same time he expresses the conviction that Parliament would be satisfied, if its most pressing anxieties were dissipated. He says that he himself would not advise the King to sacrifice the First Minister, for that such a step had always had ruinous consequences: he thought moreover that the old passionate hostility against the Duke need not be feared, if he came forward himself as the man who had advised the King to reassemble Parliament.[469] We learn that the King did not determine to summon it, until the most prominent men had given him an assurance that Buckingham should not be attacked. Moderation in the attitude of Parliament, and security for the First Minister formed as it were the condition under which the Parliament of 1628 was summoned.[470]

[Sidenote: A.D. 1628.]

On March 22, five days after the beginning of the session, the deliberations of the Lower House were opened by the remark from the Speaker, that they must indeed grant subsidies to the King; but that at the same time they must maintain the undoubted rights of the country. Francis Seymour, who had now again been returned to Parliament, at once expressed himself to the same effect. While he acknowledged that every one must make sacrifices for king and country, he shewed at the same time that it was a sacred duty to cling to their ancestral laws. He proceeded to say that these laws had been transgressed, their liberties infringed, their own selves personally ill-treated, and their property, with which they might have supported the King, exhausted. He proposed therefore to secure the rights, laws, and liberties transmitted from their ancestors by means of a petition to the King.[471]


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