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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

And which was mainly directed against the landed gentry


It

is not to be supposed that a movement like this, which the lower class of citizens in the towns had joined, just as in the German peasant war, and which was mainly directed against the landed gentry, could be stifled by one defeat: it continued to ferment uninterruptedly in men's hearts.

Still less did the condemnation passed by Convocation on the deviations from the teaching of the Church effect their suppression. On the basis of Wiclif's doctrines grew up the sect of the Lollards, which condemned the worship of images, pilgrimages, and other external church ceremonies, designated the union of judicial authority with spiritual office as unnatural--'hermaphroditism'--rejected excommunication with abhorrence, and made secret and systematic war against the whole Church establishment.

But further besides these feuds there was one within the State system itself which now became most conspicuous.

In the midst of the general ferment how necessary had a strong and resolute hand become! But Richard's government had shown itself somewhat weak; by many it was suspected of having meant to turn the disturbances to its own advantage. The commons, who mainly represented the lower gentry and the upper citizens, abandoned him, and attached themselves to the nobles, just as these revived their old jealousy against the crown. For the almost inevitable result of success in suppressing a popular

agitation is to heighten the self-confidence of an aristocracy. Impatient at being excluded from all share in the government, and strengthened in his ambition by the military disasters of the last years, the youngest of Richard's uncles, Thomas of Gloucester, put himself at the head of the grandees, whose plans the commons, instead of opposing, now on the contrary adopted as their own. The great questions arose, which have so often since then convulsed the European world, as to the relation of a Parliamentary assembly to the Monarchy, and their respective rights.

The first demand of the English Parliament was that the ministers of State should be named by it, or at least should be responsible to it. Much as this demand itself implies, yet even more extensive views were behind. The Peers told the King plainly that if he would not rule according to the common law and with their advice, it was competent for them to depose him, with consent of the people, and to raise another of the royal house to the throne;[59] they threatened him openly with the fate of Edward II.

Richard could do nothing but submit. Eleven lords were appointed to restore order in the country; Richard had to swear to carry out all they should ordain (November 1386). There remained but one way by which to oppose this open violence: the King collected the chief judges at Nottingham, and laid the question before them, whether the Commission now forced upon him did not contravene the royal power and his prerogative. The judges were far from so interpreting the Constitution of England as to allow that the King is unconditionally bound by the commands of Parliament. They affirmed under their hand and seal that the appointment of that Commission against the King's will contravened his legal prerogative; those by whom he had been forced to accept it, and who had revived the recollection of the statute against Edward II, they declared to be guilty of high treason. But Parliament itself saw in this sentence not a judgment but an intolerable outrage. At its next sitting it summoned the judges before its tribunal, and in its turn declared them to be themselves guilty of high treason. Chief Justice Tresilian died a shameful death at Tyburn. The King lived to find yet harsher laws laid upon him: his uncle Gloucester was more powerful than he was himself.


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