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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Through Coke his Secretary of State


Whatever

be the tone of opposition which this language betrays, it fell far short of that adopted in the former Parliament. Men had come to an opinion that certainly no money should be granted unless securities could be obtained for their ancient liberties; but at the same time that the King should not be induced to grasp directly at absolute power, for that this would lead at once to a rebellion of uncertain issue.[472] Men were resolved to avoid questions which could rouse old passions. This time it was not insisted that the penal laws against the Catholics should be made more severe: Parliament waived its claim to alter the constitution of the Admiralty, and to appoint treasurers to manage the money granted to the King: it showed deference for the King, and said nothing of the Duke. But a commission was appointed to take into consideration the rights which subjects ought to have over their persons and property. Already on April 3 resolutions were proposed to the House, by which it was intended that some of the most obnoxious grievances which had lately arisen should be made for ever impossible, such as the collection of taxes that had not been granted, and restraints imposed on personal liberty in consequence of refusal to pay.[473]

Charles I also now took up this question. Through Coke his Secretary of State, who was also a member of the House, he issued an invitation to them not to allow themselves to be deterred by any anxiety about liberty or property

from making those grants, on which, as he said, the welfare of Christendom depended; 'upon assurance,' Coke proceeds to add, 'that we shall enjoy our rights and liberties, with as much freedom and security in his time as in any age heretofore under the best of our kings; and whether you shall think fit to secure ourselves herein, by way of bill or otherwise, so as it be provided for with due respect to his honour and the publick good whereof he doubteth not that you will be careful, he promiseth and assureth you that he will give way to it.'

This is indeed a very important message. The King approves of an inquiry into the violations of old English right and prescription, which had taken place in his reign. He consents that a bill to secure their observance should be drawn up, and gives hopes beforehand of its ratification. Charles I, like James, had constantly been anxious to prevent grants from being made dependent on conditions; but something very like this occurs when he backs his invitation to a speedy grant of subsidies by a promise to approve of the petition submitted to him for certain objects.

On this five subsidies were without delay unanimously granted to the King, with the concurrence even of members like Pym, who systematically opposed him. It was now only necessary that both sides should agree on the enactments for doing away with the abuses which had been pointed out.

The principal grievance arose from the conduct of the King, who in his embarrassments had imposed a forced loan at the rate fixed on the occasion of the last subsidies, and had sent commissioners into the counties in order to exact payment, just as if he had been armed with the authority of Parliament for this object. Many had submitted: but not a few others high and low had refused to pay, not from want of means but on principle. The King had thought this behaviour a proof of personal disaffection, and had had no hesitation in arresting those who refused: he had even taken steps to assert his right to do so as a matter of principle. Much notice was attracted at that time by a sermon preached by one Sibthorp, in which plenary legislative authority was ascribed to the King, and unconditional obedience was demanded for all his orders if they did not contradict the divine commands. Archbishop Abbot had steadfastly refused to allow the printing of this sermon, which he regarded as an attack upon the constitution: eighteen times in succession an intimate friend of the King went to him to urge him to give leave.[474] As the Archbishop refused to comply, he received orders to leave London, and was struck out of the High Commission: the sermon had been printed with the permission of another bishop. So earnestly bent was the King at that time on pressing his claim to override the necessity of a parliamentary grant in moments of emergency.


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