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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

' 480 But the source of all evil was the Duke of Buckingham


On

June 7 the King appeared in the Upper House, where the Commons also were assembled. The Lords were in their robes, and the King sat upon his throne while the Petition of Right was read. It was directed against some temporary grievances, such as forced billeting and the application of martial law in time of peace, but principally against the exaction of forced loans, or taxes which had not been granted, and against the imprisonments which had been so much talked of. The King, as had been desired, uttered the formula of assent used by his Norman ancestors. His words were greeted with clapping of hands and acclamations. The King added that he had meant just as much by his first declaration; indeed he knew well that it was not the intention of Parliament, nor even in its power, to limit his prerogative: for that this would be strengthened by the liberties of the people, and consisted in defending those liberties.[479]

The excitement of the House was taken up by the city. The bells were rung, and bonfires were kindled; and a rumour obtained credence that the Duke of Buckingham himself had fallen, and was expecting his reward on the scaffold. Of what an illusion were men the victims! The King clung to Buckingham as firmly as ever: in granting the Petition he did not mean to surrender a jot of his lawful prerogative. We have seen what he thought of his right to make arrests. In resigning his claim to levy taxes that had not been granted by Parliament

he did not mean to be restricted in his claim to tonnage and poundage, for he thought that, unless these were collected, the administration of the State could not be carried on at all, and in the late controversies his right to them had not come under discussion. Some of the higher officials, the Recorder and the Solicitor General, confirmed the King in this view: and to many of his opponents in Parliament it was pointed out that they had previously entertained the same opinion.

The Lower House on its part allowed the bill, by which the grant was made, to pass the last stage; but it could not be moved by advice or warning to desist from the great Remonstrance, in the composition of which the House had been interrupted. In this, mention was made of the Arminian opinions which were now making way in England, and which appeared to Parliament to involve a tendency in the direction of Romanism: but it complained principally of the connivance, which in spite of all ordinances was still constantly extended to the recusants, so that Catholicism, especially in Ireland, had the fullest scope. And the State, it was said, was in just the same plight as religion. The government was introducing foreign soldiers, especially German troopers, and was meditating the imposition of new taxes in order to pay them. In the midst of peace a general was commanding in the country. Trustworthy men were being dismissed from their offices; Parliament and its rights were contemned: was it intended to 'change the frame both of religion and government?'[480] But the source of all evil was the Duke of Buckingham. The remonstrants begged the King to consider whether it was advisable for himself and for his kingdom to allow him to continue in his high offices, and to keep him among his confidential advisers.[481]

As we gather, the Lower House attached weight to the circumstance that it did not raise a complaint, nor even strictly speaking a protest, against the continuance of Buckingham's authority, but simply preferred a request that the position of affairs should be taken into consideration. But the King was greatly offended even at this. He replied that he had hitherto always believed that the members of the Lower House understood nothing about the affairs of State, and that he was now greatly strengthened in his opinion by the purport of this representation.[482] Buckingham prayed the King to cause unsparing investigation into the charges raised against him to be made, for that such a proceeding would bring his innocence to light. The King offered him his hand to kiss, and addressed to him some friendly expressions. But the Lower House was incensed afresh at the bad success of its representation, and proceeded to adopt an express remonstrance on the subject of tonnage and poundage. In order to save himself from again receiving such an address, the King declared Parliament to be prorogued on June 20.


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