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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

With consent of the Parliament


But he did not wish to have always to encounter open disturbance. He was entirely of the opinion which his chancellor gave, that enmities of such a sort could not be extinguished by the sword of war, but only by well-planned and stringent laws which would destroy the seed of rebellion, and by institutions strong enough to administer those laws. Above all he found it intolerable that the great men kept numerous dependents attached to them under engagements which were publicly paraded by distinctive badges. The lower courts of justice and the juries did not do the service expected from them in dealing with the transgressions of the law that came before them. Uncertainty as to the supreme authority, and the power which the great party-leaders exercised, filled the weaker, who had to sit in judgment on them, with dread of their sure revenge. To put an end to this disorder Henry VII established the Starchamber. With consent of the Parliament, from which all hostile party-movements were excluded, he gave his Privy Council, which was strengthened by the chief judges, a strong organisation with this end in view. It was to punish all those personal engagements, the exercise of unlawful influence in the choice of sheriffs, all riotous assemblies, lastly to have power to deal with the early symptoms of a tumult before it came to an outbreak, and that under forms which were not usual in the English administration of justice. This powerful instrument in the hands of government might be much abused, but then seemed necessary to keep in check unreconciled enemies and the spirit of faction that was ever surging up again. We see the prevailing state of things from the fact, that the King's councillors themselves, to be secured against acts of violence, passed a special law, which characterised attacks on them as attacks on the King himself. But then, like men who stood in the closest connexion with the King and his State, they used their authority with unapproachable severity. The internal tranquillity of England has been thought to be mainly due to the erection of this court of justice.[76]

Since Henry laid so much stress on his being a Lancaster, it might have been expected that he would revive the rights of the Parliament. But in this respect he followed the example of the house of York. He too imposed Benevolences, like Edward IV, and that to a yet greater extent; he made an ordinance that what was voluntarily promised should be exacted with as much strictness as if it were an ordinary tax. Another source of financial gain, which has brought on him still worse reproaches, was his commission against infractions of the law. It was inevitable that in the fluctuation of authority and of the statutes themselves innumerable illegalities should have taken place. And they were still always going on. The King took it especially ill that men omitted to pay the dues which belonged to the crown in right of its feudal superiority. All these negligences and failures were now visited and punished with the severity of the old Norman system, and at the same time with the officiousness of party-men of the day, who saw their own advantage in it. This proceeding pressed very many heavily on private persons and communities, and ruined families, but it filled the King's coffers. One of his maxims was that his laws should not be broken under any circumstances, another that a sovereign who would enjoy consideration must always have money: in this instance both worked together.

If we look at the lists of his receipts we find that they consist, as in other kingdoms, of the crown's revenue proper, which was considerably increased by the escheated possessions of great families which had become extinct, the customs duties settled on him for life, the tenth from the clergy, and the feudal dues. It was estimated that they produced nearly the same revenue as that of the French kings at this time, but it was remarked that the King of England only spent about two-thirds of his income. He did not need a Parliamentary grant, especially as he kept out of dangerous foreign entanglements. In his last thirteen years he never once called a Parliament.


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