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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

And accept the Petition while at the same time


satisfied no one. They appeared

to one party as dark as the sentence of an oracle; to the other they appeared useless; for the King, they said, was already pledged to all this by his Coronation Oath: such long sittings and so much labour would not have been required to effect such a result as this. The answer however was not ascribed to the King, whose deliberations remained shrouded in the closest secrecy, and who on the contrary was thought to agree with the substance of the petition, but to the favourite, who was supposed to find such an agreement dangerous for himself.[477] It was remarked that two days before making this declaration the King had been at one of the country seats of the Duke, and had held confidential conversations with him. It was thought that there, under the influence of the Duke, the declaration had been drawn up, which contained nothing but words that might easily be explained in another sense, and which did not even make any mention of the petition at all. It was fancied that Buckingham even wished to hinder the King from coming to a genuine understanding with his Parliament, which might be disadvantageous to his interests.[478] His opponents thought that he was at the root of all previous misfortunes; and what might they not still expect from him? He was credited with wishing to alter the constitution of England, to excite a war with Scotland, and to betray Ireland to the Spaniards. In spite of all that the King might have originally expected, they determined to make a direct attack
upon such a minister. Popular susceptibility knows no limits in its anxieties or hopes, in its likings or hatreds. Even thoughtful and serious men allowed themselves to entertain the opinion that the prosperity of England at home and abroad was as good as lost: the former was lost if people were content with the answer given, the latter if they refused to make the grants demanded, or even if they made them but left the administration in those untrustworthy hands in which it was at the present time. On one occasion these feelings gave rise to an unparalleled scene in Parliament. Those bearded and sedate men wept and cursed. They feared for their country, and each one feared for himself, if they did not get rid of the man who possessed power, while on the other hand it seemed to them impossible to do so. Some could not speak for tears: violent exclamations against the Duke prevented the continuance of the debate. But not only were complaints heard: the expression was also heard, that men had still hands and swords, and could get rid of the enemy of King and country by his death. They proceeded at last to deliberate on a protestation which was resolved on after that debate, and they had gone so far as to name the Duke, and to declare him a traitor, when the Speaker who had quitted the House came in again, and brought a message from the King, by which the sitting was adjourned to the following day.

No course seemed to be left for Charles I but to dissolve this Parliament immediately as he had dissolved its predecessor. But what would then have become of the grant of money, which was every day more urgently needed? Like the Petition, it would have fallen to the ground.

Before the end of the same day, June 5, a meeting of the Privy Council was held, in which it was resolved to calm the agitation by accepting the Petition of Right. We do not learn if on that occasion the scruples of the King were discussed or not; but as his questions to the judges already betrayed his inclination to such a course, so now he actually resolved to plunge into the contradiction which he had wished to avoid, and accept the Petition while at the same time, in accordance with the sentence of the Judges, he would reserve for himself the future exercise of the right therein denied.


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