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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

If tonnage and poundage already belonged to the King


The

assembly, however, consisted of the very men who had thought that through the Petition of Right they had set up a fundamental law for ever, but had since then become conscious how little they had effected by that means.

An unpleasant impression had already been made on them by the printing of the Petition of Right without the expression of simple approval, but with the restrictive declarations which the King had at first made.[492] But besides this it was seen how little the King intended to be bound to the literal meaning of his words, for arrests without definite assignment of the reason had again taken place. The Star Chamber, which was already regarded as a court of doubtful legality, had imposed harsh and arbitrary penalties which awakened loud murmurs. The political opinions of one or two clergymen had caused general agitation. A preacher named Roger Manwaring gave utterance to extreme Royalist views. He defended forced loans, and contested the unconditional right of Parliament to grant taxes. From some passages of Scripture he deduced the absolute power of the sovereign, so that properly speaking no contract at all could, in his opinion, be made between king and people.[493] Parliament had called him to account for this, and had punished him by fine and suspension; but the King remitted the sentence. Another clergyman of kindred views, Montague, whom we have already mentioned, had been advanced by the King to the bishopric of Chichester,

though, as deserves to be noticed, not without encountering opposition. For at the elections the old forms were still observed. Before the commissary of the Archbishop confirmed the election, which had taken place at the King's commands, he invited those present, if they knew anything in the life and conduct of the bishop-elect which could hinder his confirmation, to declare it. What had never been done on any other occasion was done then. An objection against Montague was presented in writing on the ground that doctrines occurred in his books which were irreconcilable with the existing institutions of England. The matter was brought before a court of justice, which, however, dismissed the objection as proceeding from a man who did not belong to the diocese of Chichester. The royal confirmation had then followed.[494] But must it not have been irritating to Parliament that the very men were promoted about whom it had complained? Its complaints seemed rather to serve as a recommendation.

Besides this a Jesuit institution had been discovered in the immediate neighbourhood of London, and had then not been prosecuted with all the severity which Parliament thought requisite. People complained that the number of Papists was increasing every day; that in the counties, where before there had been none, they were now reckoned by thousands. Mainly at the instigation of Sir John Eliot, the Lower House issued a declaration, that it desired to hold the Articles of the English Church in the sense in which they were understood by the writers, whose authority was recognised in that Church, and not in the sense of the Jesuits and Arminians, which was repudiated.

The question of tonnage and poundage came before the House while it was labouring under the irritation kindled by this discussion. What the government desired, the establishment of this tax on a legal footing, was also the wish of Parliament; but Parliament wished the matter to be settled in a way different from that intended by the King. Parliament desired to make the right of granting taxes a genuine reality, and henceforward to fix the duties in detail. The first reading of the bill brought forward by the government was rejected, on the formal ground that tonnage and poundage were subsidies, for granting which a resolution must be taken before a bill on the subject could be brought in.[495] Parliament espoused the cause of the London merchants, who had certainly suffered in support of its claims, and demanded that the proceedings of the Treasury should be reversed. For they maintained that the collection of tonnage and poundage was as much a breach of the fundamental principles of the realm, as the raising of any other tax that had not been granted would be. Or could any one, they asked, grant what he did not possess? If tonnage and poundage already belonged to the King, he did not need to have it granted him. The arrangement proposed by the government was rejected altogether: and everything else which was inconsistent with the literal meaning of the petition was also declared illegal.


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