THE CONSTITUTIONAL STRUGGLE IN ENGLAND. (1625-40.)
By G. W. PROTHEUO, Litt.D., F.B.A., Hon. and Late Fellow and Tutor of King's College, Cambridge.
England at the accession of Charles I . 256
The French match. Foreign affairs . 257
Charles' first Parliament . 258
Differences about taxation and religion . 259
The case of Richard Montague .260
Dispute on foreign policy . 261
Parliament dissolved. The expedition to Cadiz . 262
Charles' second Parliament . 263
The King's efforts to protect Buckingham . 264
Impeachment of Buckingham. Parliament dissolved . 265
Efforts to raise money. Breach with France . 266
Expedition to Ré. Darnel's case . 267
Continued opposition to taxation .268
Charles' third Parliament . 269
The Petition of Right . 270
The Petition passed. Parliament prorogued . 271
Church appointments. Death of Buckingham . 272
The King's Declaration . 273
Parliament dissolved. The King's prospects . 274
Peace with France and Spain. The Palatinate . 275
Negotiations with France, Spain, and Austria . 276
Ecclesiastical policy. Laud and Wentworth . 277
Weston. Suppression of Puritanism . 278
Laud as Archbishop. His visitation . 279
Prynne, Burton, and Bastwick. Schools of thought . 280
Taxation and parliamentary privilege . 281
Ship-motiey. Laud at the Treasury . 282
Hampden and the ship-money case . 283
The Scottish rebellion. The Short Parliament . 284
The Treaty of Ripon. End of "Thorough" . 285
THE CONSTITUTIONAL STRUGGLE IN ENGLAND. (1625-40.)
WHEN, on March 27, 1625, James I died, and the accession of his eldest surviving son as Charles I opened one of the most momentous reigns in English history, the condition of the country was by no means happy. A fundamental divergence of view as to the limits of the royal prerogative, the rights of Parliament, and the independence of the Law-Courts, had led, in the late reign, to those serious disputes between the King and his subjects which have been recounted in a previous volume. The revenue which had not sufficed even for a thrifty Queen was still less adequate to the requirements of her wasteful successor, enhanced as these were by causes, such as the change in the value of money, which were beyond his control. Though the country was at peace, lavish expenditure and the lack of supervision involved the Crown in heavy liabilities, from which even the skill of Robert Cecil had failed to extricate it. Unable to agree with Parliament, James had substituted the influence of favourites for that of the national representatives ; and ten years of absolute government had set a precedent which his son was to follow with baleful results. This system had broken down under the pressure of the Thirty Years' War, and the demands made by an active foreign policy on an impoverished exchequer. But fresh recourse to Parliaments had not produced the desired agreement between Crown and nation ; on the contrary, to the old causes of difference and distrust- questions of financial control, questions of ecclesiastical policy-was now added disagreement in regard to foreign affairs. The coalition between the two branches of the Habsburg House seemed to revive, for Englishmen scarce past middle age, the Spanish terror of their youth, and to threaten equally the political and the religious independence of Great Britain and of Europe. To allay the fears which his diplomacy had aroused, James had publicly pledged himself to conditions which it was impossible for Spain to accept ; but the nation, which had hailed with an outburst of joy the rupture of the Spanish treaty, found its anxieties revive when the matrimonial overtures which had failed at Madrid were
At the moment of Charles1" accession, the state of affairs abroad- which deeply interested the young King for dynastic, and his subjects for religious and political, reasons-was threatening. The sixth year of the Great War was drawing to a close. The Protestant cause was at a low ebb, the Palatinate overrun by the Elector's foes, and himself an exile ; the Imperialists were in possession of all central Germany. But the struggle was beginning to take a wider range. Spain, which had come to the Emperor's aid, and whose truce with Holland had ended in 1621, was now at war with France and England; and Richelieu, chief Minister of Louis XIII since the previous May, had, with the aid of Venice and Savoy, laid hands on the Valtelline, and cut the connexion between Spain and Austria. Mansfeld's ill-conceived and misdirected expedition had left the English shores in the preceding January ; how dismally it was faring in the swamps of Flanders was as yet unknown. In northern Germany, the Protestant Princes were arming against the Emperor ; and, though Gustavus Adolphus, more interested in Poland than in the affairs of the Empire, for the present stood aloof, Christian of Denmark was preparing to aid his German co-religionists. Unfortunately for the Protestant cause, Richelieu's efforts were thwarted by an inopportune revolt of the Huguenots (January, 1625) under Soubise ; and La Rochelle was in arms against the Crown. In this crisis, foreign policy naturally engaged the first attention of the new Government.
A committee of the Privy Council for foreign affairs was set up- a plan which conferred additional authority on Buckingham, while it placed no restrictions on his policy. A powerful fleet was got ready; and 10,000 men were pressed for service as soldiers. Their destination for the present was uncertain, and depended on arrangements with friendly Powers. Early in April, Maurice, Prince of Orange, died ; his brother Frederick Henry succeeded him as Stadholder. The Dutch agreed to join in an attack on Spain ; it was supposed that the armada would seize some Flemish ports-a scheme likely to combine Dutch and English interests. Buckingham was to command the expedition in person. But, for the execution of this and other plans, the aid of France was desirable, if not necessary ; and the active aid of France, which after all
Buckingham returned to England with the French Princess, whose fate in the land of her adoption was to be only one degree less tragic than that of the Stewart Queen who had come back from France to her own country some sixty years before. For the moment all smiled upon the beautiful girl of fifteen, who, if a Catholic, was after all the daughter of Henry of Navarre. She herself was anxious to remind her new subjects of the fact. When asked if she could abide a Huguenot, she wittily replied, " Why not ? was not my father one ? " On June 16 she entered London with the King. Two days later, Charles' first Parliament met at Westminster. It was not a promising tale that Buckingham had to tell. The French marriage was made; but where was the French treaty? Breda had fallen to the Spaniards three weeks before ; the miserable remnants of Mansfeld's expedition dared not cross the Rhine to carry out their task. A diplomatic and a military failure had to be confessed. Still, the conditions were by no means hopeless ; frankness, insight, and decision might still establish the King's authority at home and redeem the Protestant cause abroad. Unfortunately it was just these qualities which were wanting to the Government of Charles I; and to such defects Buckingham added his own special failings of rashness and pride.
On June 18, 1625, Charles' first Parliament met at Westminster. The chief object which the King had at heart was to obtain supplies for his heavy foreign engagements ; but the citizens and country gentlemen who held the strings, though well-disposed towards the young monarch, were in no hurry to open the national purse until they should have obtained satisfactory assurances as to the objects on which the money was to be spent, and, above all, as to the security of the Protestant faith. Religion, taxation, and foreign affairs were the prominent considerations in their minds, and were to remain such during the next four stormy years ;
The session was opened by a speech from the King, urging his hearers speedily to supply his needs, and pledging himself to maintain the true religion. The Commons went into Committee of Religion and Supply, in which "religion was to have the first place." A petition was then drawn up, in which the King was begged to execute the penal laws, to take other measures against Romanism, and to amend various abuses and defects which hindered the efficiency of the national Church. Having in this way relieved their minds, or, in other words, stated their conditions, they proceeded to the consideration of supply. In vain the courtiers urged the need of an unusually large grant. Phelips declared that, as for war, "we know yet of no war, nor of any enemy"; and he pressed for an explanation as to what had become of the money voted in the late reign. In the end, two subsidies, or about =£140,000, were voted-a sum utterly inadequate to meet the engagements, amounting to nearly a million, into which the Government had rashly entered. Nor was this all. Ever since the early part of the fifteenth century the House of Commons had been accustomed to vote the customs-duties known as tonnage and poundage, as a matter of course, at the commencement of each reign. On this occasion, however, the question was raised ; and, after considerable discussion, a Bill granting tonnage and poundage for one year only was carried. The Bill went to the Upper House, where, whether owing to its insufficiency or to the pressure of other matters, it was allowed to drop. In strict law, the Commons were within their rights ; if they could grant, they could also refuse; nevertheless the precedent was new and grave. Tonnage and poundage had for some two centuries been regarded as part of the regular revenue of the Crown. To refuse or to limit the right to its collection was a serious innovation, and set up a claim which might be used by Parliament to control general policy in a manner and to an extent hitherto unknown.
There can be little doubt that the decision of the House was in some degree influenced by fresh anxiety on the score of religion. The case of Richard Montague was attracting general attention. In the last year of James1 reign, this clergyman had issued a pamphlet entitled, A new Gag for an old Goose, which, while purporting to refute Roman Catholic arguments against Calvinism, took up a position with respect to predestination and other religious questions midway between that of extreme Protestants and that of the adherents of Rome. His views, generally speaking, appear to have been those held by the chief English divines of the seventeenth century, which have obtained the name of "Anglican," and were again brought into prominence by the leaders
It was in a scanty House, heated by this conflict and by the debate about tonnage and poundage, that the Court party again brought up the question of supply. There was little speaking ; but the House was in no humour to listen to the demand ; and nothing was done. Shortly afterwards, a deputation which carried the petition on religion to Hampton Court was civilly received, but was informed that Montague had been appointed to a royal chaplaincy-an unwise act, for it brought the Crown into the controversy, and raised the question of the responsibility of the King's servants. It was no long step from this to the question whether Ministers of State were to be responsible to Parliament or to the Crown. On July 11 the Houses were adjourned.
Between his pledges to Prance and his promises to Parliament Charles was in a grievous dilemma. At the adjournment, Lord Keeper Williams had repeated the King's promise to execute the penal laws ; but, on the very next day, a number of priests were liberated, with a view to their leaving the country. Such a measure was not unusual ; but it was, to say the least, an unfortunate coincidence. On the other hand, within his own house, Charles met with opposition of a different kind. The Queen considered that she had been tricked into marriage by promises which it was never intended to fulfil, and, stimulated by her Catholic attendants, demanded greater freedom of worship than she was allowed. The dispute grew so hot that the newly-married pair could no longer live under the same roof.
Meanwhile there seemed to be a good prospect of a solution of one at least of the foreign difficulties. Richelieu had opened negotiations with the Huguenots ; Pennington was therefore ordered to hand over his ships to the French Government; and, early in June, he sailed for Dieppe. But his instructions were contradictory; he was secretly ordered to do nothing against the Protestants; and, after a fortnight's stay in the French port, he returned to England. Richelieu naturally remonstrated ; and Pennington requested to be relieved of a task which was either unintelligible or odious. At length, about the middle of July, news
(premature, as it proved) arrived that peace had been made; and Pennington was again sent to Dieppe, with the ostensible purpose of handing over his ships to the French. But, with characteristic double-dealing, he was secretly ordered to allow his crews to prevent the surrender; and an envoy was despatched to hold the French in play while encouraging a mutiny with this end in view. The manœuvre was temporarily successful. The crew of the flagship, the Vanguard, took command, and stood out to sea ; the merchantmen remained at Dieppe, but their captains retained control. Eventually, as peace appeared certain, peremptory orders were sent ; and on August 6 the Vanguard and six other ships were surrendered to the French.
On August 1, Parliament had met again at Oxford. The attitude of the Commons was unchanged ; and what had happened during the adjournment was not likely to render them more amenable. They at once took up again the matter of religion. Montague was summoned to the bar, but was too ill to attend. The question of responsibility was thus evaded for a time ; but Laud and other Bishops raised it afresh by declaring, in a letter to Buckingham, that it was not for Parliament, but for the King and the Episcopate, to judge in questions of religion. The House was no doubt intolerant ; the heads of the Church stood for toleration; but creeds and politics were too inextricably mingled to allow the prevalence of a principle which had to wait two centuries for full recognition.
It was not, however, on this question, but on that of foreign policy, that the rupture took place. The House was again urged to grant the supply vainly demanded a month before. The parliamentary leaders asked, but in vain, for an explanation of the cause. Seymour complained that they were kept in ignorance. Phelips blamed the advisers of the Crown, and upheld the right of Parliament to " reform the Commonwealth." These were ominous words. Finally, Rich laid down certain propositions, the chief of which were that the King should give an answer to the petition on religion, declare plainly against whom the country was to fight, and promise not to enter upon a war without taking advice of his Council. There could be no doubt what this meant; Buckingham was no longer to be the sole adviser of the Crown. But the favourite was not the man to yield to such demands ; a lack of courage was not one of his defects. Facing the assembled Commons in the hall of Christ Church, he promised execution of the laws, defended his foreign policy, and informed the House that, if they wished to know their enemy, they might name him themselves.
Buckingham was probably sincere in his self-confidence, but he could not inspire similar feelings in his audience. In the debates which followed, it came out that Mansell, a member of the Council of War, had never been consulted ; and at length Seymour said the fateful word, " Let us lay the fault where it is " : the Duke of Buckingham or his agents were
Charles and Buckingham reckoned that, before Parliament should meet again, they would be able to confront it from the vantage-ground of diplomatic and military success. They expected, on the one hand, that peace would be made in France, and that Louis would then join actively in the league against the Habsburgs; on the other, that the navy would deal a heavy blow at Spain by destroying a Spanish port, and relieve the national exchequer by capturing the Plate fleet. The following autumn and winter were to see all these hopes disappointed.
So empty was the royal purse that privy seals for a loan had to be issued, and the pawning of the crown jewels was contemplated. The pressed troops at Plymouth were in wretched plight; in neither fleet nor army was order kept ; and the people protested loudly against the billeting upon them of starving and undisciplined men. At length, in a stormy season, the great armada set sail (October 8). Badly found as it was, Cadiz might have fallen, had the plans been carefully laid and the attack conducted with insight and decision. But Sir Edward Cecil, the commander, was no sailor ; there were no plans and no leadership ; cooperation between the land and sea forces was imperfect; and some sections showed little stomach for the fight. A fort was taken ; an aimless march inland was made ; delays and blunders gave the Spaniards time to remove their ships out of danger and to garrison the town ; and, after a week spent in futile operations, the armada stood out again to sea. There too ill-fortune awaited the English ; for the Plate fleet, forewarned of danger, adopted an unusual route, and slipped into Cadiz when their backs were turned. In the middle of November, Cecil gave orders to sail for home. Singly and with difficulty, the ships straggled back to England; and their demoralised crews spread throughout the country the news that the great expedition had disastrously failed.
Meanwhile, Buckingham's project of a great Protestant league had made little progress. A few days before the dissolution, it was known that war had been actively renewed in France. A month later, a close alliance was formed with the States General in the Treaty of Southampton (September 8). In order to carry through his project, Buckingham went in person to the Hague, where, at the end of November, a triple alliance between England, Denmark, and the United Netherlands was made. But without the active adhesion of France such a league could be of little effect. The negotiations with that country were carried on during the next two months, but were hindered by Charles' attitude towards the rebellious Huguenots, by the demand for the return of the English ships, and by the seizure of French vessels engaged in a trade with Flanders which the English Government declared to be contraband. Richelieu took a long step towards an understanding
Efforts had been made to deprive the Commons of their leaders by pricking for sheriffs such men as Edward Coke and Wentworth, Seymour and Phelips; but the manœuvre was more likely to irritate than to deter the Opposition. Sir John Eliot at once stepped into the vacant place and took the lead. In an eloquent speech he exposed the wounds of the State, recounted the disasters by sea and land, and demanded full enquiry into the cause. " Our honour is ruined, our ships are sunk, our men perished, not by the enemy, not by chance, but.. .by those we trust." The Parliament which now began its deliberations was almost entirely occupied in the effort to bring home the guilt of these misfortunes to the Minister who had advised the King.
A Committee of Grievances at once fell to work, enquiring into recent administration and policy, and, in short, collecting the evidence which was subsequently to be the basis of the charges against Buckingham. In this task, the Commons were no doubt to some extent led astray by prejudice against the chief culprit; but their difficulties arose mainly from the impossibility of obtaining adequate information about matters of State. In vain they tried to force the members of the Council of War to open their mouths. Nevertheless the enquiry brought much to light, and resulted, at least, in determining the Commons to proceed. Their persistence drew down upon them an angry rebuke from the King. Too much time, he told the Speaker, was spent on grievances. " I would not have the House to question my servants, much less one that is so near me." Nevertheless the House went on; and Eliot brought ominous precedents to bear in support of the right of Parliament to make the removal of a favourite the condition of supply. Again the King intervened, this time with a clear threat. "Remember (he said) that Parliaments are altogether in my power for their calling, sitting, and dissolution ; therefore, as I find the fruits of them good or evil, they are to continue or not to be." A personal attempt by Buckingham to stop proceedings, by making a clean breast of his doings in the matter of the surrendered ships, served only to disclose a policy of double-dealing which increased the general distrust.
The short Easter recess was hardly over when an event occurred
A quarrel between Buckingham and the Earl of Bristol, which had arisen from the Spanish match, had been taken up by Charles. Bristol had been confined to his house in Dorset, and was not summoned to the first Parliament of the reign. On the meeting of the second, he petitioned for a writ, and demanded a fair trial. The Peers, already annoyed by the confinement of another of their number, the Earl of Arundel, on utterly inadequate grounds, espoused his cause. Bristol was allowed to come to London, and laid his case before the Lords, charging Buckingham as the instigator of his injurious treatment. The King replied by a charge of high treason ; and on May 1 Bristol appeared at the bar. The charges against him were frivolous ; on the other hand, his retaliation upon Buckingham was damaging; he knew too much of what had passed in Spain. The trial, in which the King vainly sought, by various means, to damage his opponent, was in progress, when, on May 8, the leaders of the Commons formally impeached Buckingham at the bar of the House of Lords.
The attack laboured under two great disadvantages: first, that many of the charges were based on inaccurate information, and were consequently exaggerated or even mistaken; secondly, that, had they been proved, it would have been difficult-at least as difficult as it afterwards was in the case of Strafford-to bring them within any legal conception of treason. But what weakened the parliamentary case most of all was that the real gravamen-the charge of misconducting the affairs and endangering the safety of the nation-could not be pressed without inculpating the King. The maxim that the King can do no wrong was still far from being supplemented by its constitutional corollary-the doctrine of ministerial responsibility. Charles I was not the man to say, in his son's witty phrase, that his words were his own but his acts were his Ministers'. Had the Commons been able to prove Buckingham a criminal, or even
Unfortunately, too, it was not the fact that the King had been deceived or his confidence abused, by the Minister; the verdict of history upholds that of Charles' own conscience, in refusing to allow an exoneration of the master at the expense of the servant. Eliot's famous parallel between Buckingham and Sejanus went further than he intended ; and Charles not unnaturally took the implication of Tiberius to himself. His reply was the imprisonment of Eliot and Digges. But the breach of privilege was too flagrant: the Commons declined to do business till this was redressed. Digges was speedily released; and, after a futile attempt to trump up a case against Eliot, he too was set at liberty. As if this rebuff were not sufficient, the Peers, by dint of repeated protests, obliged the King to release Arundel; while with equal firmness they frustrated his endeavour to deprive Bristol of counsel. Though such an attitude displayed the independence of the Peers, it is probable that, had the King allowed the trial to proceed, Buckingham would have gained his cause. But this was not to be. A peremptory demand for supply, intended apparently to put the Commons in the wrong, was met by a formal Remonstrance, in which, after declaring the illegality of levying tonnage and poundage without their consent, the House attacked Buckingham as an enemy of Church and State, and gave the King to understand that, until he were removed, they would grant no supply. Earlier in the session Charles had told the Commons, in Elizabethan fashion, that they had liberty of counsel, not of control. A plainer demand for control could hardly have been made. The King's reply (June 15) was to dissolve Parliament. His displeasure against his opponents was shown by the renewed confinement of Arundel and Bristol ; and, when the parliamentary leaders refused to carry on the attack upon Buckingham by process in the Star Chamber, Eliot, Wentworth, and others were struck off the Commission of the Peace.
Having failed to obtain assistance in a parliamentary way, the Government was compelled to fall back on other methods, which were sure to be difficult and might turn out to be illegal. Hitherto the judges had been, for the most part, what Bacon had said they should be -lions under the throne ; but there was a point at which even the lions might betray possession of a legal conscience. Various methods of collecting money were proposed. A suggestion to obtain a subsidy direct from the freeholders was dismissed. The experiment of debasing the coinage was actually begun, but stopped before it had gone far. A large quantity of royal plate was sold. The City was asked to lend £100,000, but refused. A free gift, or "benevolence," was requested from the country at large, but brought little into the exchequer.
Stronger measures were now tried. Tonnage and poundage had been levied, throughout, without parliamentary grant ; and London and the maritime counties had already been ordered to supply ships. The City, after some resistance, gave in, and a fleet was collected at Portsmouth. But there was no pay for the soldiers, the men were mutinous, the ships badly found. The privy seals of 1625 had brought in but a small amount; it was now resolved (September) to raise five subsidies by means of a forced loan. There was much resistance ; but the loan was being collected from the home counties, when the Judges jointly refused to recognise its legality Sir Randal Crew, Chief Justice, was promptly dismissed, and Nicholas Hyde took his place ; but the judicial objection had great effect. Several Peers refused to lend ; and the gentry followed suit. The Earl of Lincoln was sent to the Tower (March, 1627) ; John Hampden, Eliot, Wentworth, and other gentlemen were imprisoned. But the resistance only increased; and the action of the Government set the whole country aflame.
As if Charles and Buckingham had not already enough on their hands, they had meanwhile definitely broken with France, and that too when the Protestant cause seemed almost desperate abroad. It was in the middle of August, 1626, that the battle of Lutter placed northern Germany at the mercy of the League. A few days earlier, Charles had earned the resentment of Louis by finally dismissing the French attendants on the Queen. The quarrel was patched up through the tact of the French ambassador, Bassompierre ; but it broke out afresh through the sequestration of English goods at Rouen, the seizure of English ships at La Rochelle, and the stoppage of the wine-fleet at Bordeaux. These reprisals, due to the high-handed manner in which the English Government carried out its views as to neutral trade, were answered by a general order to seize French goods (Dec. 3). The final French demands, for full execution of the marriage contract and mutual liberation of prizes, were rejected; and early in 1627 England drifted into war with France.
In allowing so deplorable a result to take place, Charles made three grave miscalculations-the first, that Richelieu's power would not bear the strain imposed upon it by an English war; the second, that it would be possible to detach Spain from France ; the third and most fatal, that his own resources were sufficient to deal a crushing blow. The overtures made to Spain not only failed, but resulted in a compact with France for joint action against England ; while Richelieu's power remained unshaken. Nevertheless, undeterred by the danger of a conflict with the two greatest European Powers, Buckingham started, towards the end of June, at the head of a considerable force, for La Rochelle. His instructions were to make war upon the hostile fleets, to öfter active assistance to the Rochellese, and then, if the offer were declined, to prey upon French and Spanish commerce wherever found. The French ships kept to their harbours ; and the armada reached the Isle of Ré without
According to the letter of his instructions, Buckingham should now have withdrawn, sent back his troops to England, and continued the war at sea. But the second part of the English programme now appeared. Whether the Bochellese required help or not, the occupation of an island on the French coast would, so long as the English fleet could hold the sea-and of its superiority there seemed no doubt-be of great advantage in any subsequent dealings with France. It was accordingly resolved to besiege St Martin. But the fort held out ; the English army began to dwindle ; and reinforcements were urgently demanded. Where were they to be found ? The forced loan had produced a sum of over ,£200,000 in July ; but debts swallowed up the proceeds as they came in. Charles did his best, but he could neither make money nor collect men ; and only a few recruits were sent out. On September 28, by a night attack, the French succeeded in throwing men and provisions into St Martin. Three weeks later French troops landed in the island ; the besiegers would soon become the besieged. An attempt to storm St Martin failed; and orders were at last given to embark. In November the miserable remnants of the expedition returned to England. The failure, due rather to the utter disorganisation of the Government at home than to any mistakes on the part of Buckingham as commander, was even more flagrant and more disastrous than that at Cadiz two years before.
The natural result was to heighten the displeasure felt in the country against the Government, and to strengthen resistance to the loan. The question of its justification came indirectly before the Courts in the case of the Five Knights (otherwise known as Darnel's case), who had been imprisoned for refusing to lend. The prisoners-five out of some seventy or eighty who had been similarly confined or banished from their homes- bearing the honoured names of Darnel, Erie, Corbet, Heveningham, and Edmund Hampden, appealed in November, 1627, to the Court of King's Bench for a writ of Habeas Corpus, demanding that the cause of their imprisonment should be shown. The trial that followed is notable, not only as the second of the great cases in which the limits of the prerogative in matters of taxation came before the judgment of a Court of law, but also as indicating the lines on which the constitutional struggle was to be fought out.
As in the cases of Bate, Chambers, and Hampden, momentous political issues were concealed beneath legal technicalities, and lawyers were called on to decide the highest affairs of State. The case of Darnel and his friends was argued by Seiden and other distinguished counsel on strictly legal grounds, by reference to statutes and precedents from Magna Carta
That such a settlement would soon be necessary was becoming daily more clear. The country was at war with two great Powers ; but ships and men, ammunition and stores, were wanting. The soldiers and sailors were unpaid and mutinous ; the former, billeted on poor folk up and down the country, maltreated their unwilling hosts. The release of all the prisoners for the loan (January 2, 1628) was meant to conciliate opposition ; but the unparliamentary sources had evidently run dry. Fresh privy seals were issued, to little or no effect. Early in February, writs for the collection of ship-money from all the shires were sent out; but, at the first sign of opposition on the part of certain Lord-Lieutenants, the Government withdrew the demand. To press it on the eve of a Parliament would have been suicidal ,• and already (January 30) the summons for another Parliament had gone forth. The circumstances of the time were highly unpropitious for the Government,-and popular indignation was intensified by unwise utterances on the part of the High Church clergy. During the late Parliament, Laud, Andrewes, and two other Bishops, had reported in favour of Montague's book, and had advised the King to stop controversy on religious topics. The Commons, however, had drawn up charges against Montague, and, but for the dissolution, would probably have proceeded to an impeachment. A proclamation, issued in June, 1626, bidding both parties keep silence, was not likely to be effective, when clergymen like Sibthorp and Manwaring, holding Montague's religious views, preached sermons (1627) inculcating the principle of non-resistance and the highest notions of Divine Right. It was inevitable that Parliament should include in one common condemnation the supporters of Arminianism and prerogative, and should discover a close connexion between religious
These utterances and, still more, the recent imprisonments on account of the loan were the subjects uppermost in men's minds when Parliament met again on March 17, 1628. The King's necessities were pressing. Besides the ordinary requirements of the State, a sum of at least a million and a quarter was needed for carrying on the war. At a time when the annual revenue scarcely amounted to half that sum, it was an unprecedented demand, to which the House was unlikely to yield without full compensation. The first debates betrayed a divergence between the leaders of the Commons, which widened as time went on. Eliot thundered against arbitrary taxation and innovations in religion, declaring both to be equally illegal and obnoxious. It was noteworthy that Wentworth, while attacking forced loans, illegal imprisonment, and other abuses of power, and inveighing against those who " extended the prerogative beyond its just symmetry," said nothing about religion. But the divergence went deeper than this ; for Wentworth, while aiming at the abolition of misgovernment and striving after efficiency, saw that somewhere sovereignty must reside, and had no wish to strip the Crown in order to transfer that sovereignty to Parliament. Eliot, on the other hand, and those who thought and worked with him, were mindless of ulterior consequences so long as they could safeguard the liberties of the subject and the rights of the assembly to which they belonged.
The House began by registering a vote against taxation without parliamentary consent. In the discussion about imprisonment, which followed, the arguments which had weighed with the Judges in the recent case were urged on behalf of the Crown ; and much was made of a famous opinion of the Judges, commonly known as Anderson's judgment, given in 1591. It is hard, as Hallam says, to see how it could have been regarded as strengthening the parliamentary case ; but the House speedily adopted a resolution declaring the illegality of imprisonment without showing cause. Passing on to other grievances, they appointed a committee to enquire into the billeting and pressing of soldiers, but, at Wentworth's suggestion, showed their conciliatory spirit by unanimously voting five subsidies (about £350,000). The vote, however, was not reported ; it was evidently to be conditional on the granting of their demands. Martial law was next taken up. While the Lower House debated this question, the Lords, in considering the resolutions on taxation and imprisonment, betrayed some inclination to side with the King, and sent down counter-propositions practically reserving the rights of the Crown. Wentworth proposed a Bill which should set the law against arbitrary confinement beyond doubt, while hoping that the question whether the law were above the King, or the King above the law, would not be stirred. Eventually a Bill embodying the resolutions already passed was brought in by Sir Edward Coke (April 29). In vain
The long debate rolled on. What did the King mean ? asked Pym : a promise to observe the Statutes was not a pledge that wrongful imprisonment should cease. The loan was the grievance, said Coke; let them join with the Lords in a petition against that and other wrongs. The proposal was acclaimed ; on May 8, the famous Petition of Right was brought in; and two days later it was sent up to the Lords. Then began a prolonged struggle between Crown and Commons, in which, as in the days of StrafFord's trial and again in those of the Exclusion Bill, all depended on which side the Upper House would espouse. At first the Lords tried accommodation. They accepted the Petition in principle, but, after making sundry small amendments, appended a clause saving the King's "sovereign power." Such an addition, it was clear to the Commons, would stultify all their efforts. "All our petition," said Pym, "is for the laws of England; and this power seems to be another power distinct from the law." The kernel of the contention lay here. Various proposals were then made by the House of Lords. Buckingham suggested the substitution of " prerogative " for " sovereign power " ; Coventry endeavoured to explain that the clause meant very little ; others proposed to submit the Petition to the Judges. One after another, these suggestions were rejected by the resolute leaders of the Commons. At length the Lords, persuaded that the Commons were in the right, gave way ; and on May 28 the Petition passed both Houses of Parliament.
Face to face with this united opposition, the King still sought a way of escape. He questioned the Judges as to his rights, and the legal effect of granting the Petition. To two of his questions the Judges returned answers not wholly satisfactory ; but to the third they replied that, as " every law hath his exposition," and the Courts of justice must determine each case, the Petition, if granted, would not absolutely preclude him from commitment without showing cause. Cautious though this answer was, it seemed to save the prerogative; but, even so, the King could not bring himself frankly to accept the Petition. Without so much as mentioning that document, he made answer that right should be done " according to the laws and customs of the realm," in such a way that " his subjects might have no cause to complain." With such an answer the Commons could not rest content. It was resolved to draw up another Remonstrance. Eliot was silenced by the Speaker, but Coke boldly denounced Buckingham as "the grievance of grievances"; whereupon the King cut short the debate. Then the Lords came to the rescue again; and, at their suggestion, a joint deputation went to
A preamble to the Petition recited the Statutes on which the petitioners relied, and the grievances alleged. The effective portion of the document is contained in one paragraph, which enacted that henceforward no man should be compelled "to yield any gift, loan, benevolence, tax, or such like charge" without consent of Parliament; that none should " be confined or otherwise molested," and no freeman should be " imprisoned or detained," for refusal of payment not so justified ; that the billeting of soldiers and sailors should cease ; and that the commissions for executing martial law should be annulled and not re-issued. The demands, it will be observed, are limited to present emergencies. There is no claim for general parliamentary control, no assertion of ministerial responsibility to Parliament, no overt attack upon the "sovereign power" or "prerogative" of the Crown. Nevertheless, since the affairs of State, foreign or domestic, could not be carried on without money, and the means by which money could be obtained, in any considerable amount, without consent of Parliament were hereby taken away, the enactment implied a constitutional change which was little short of a revolution. It is easy for us now, looking back on these events in the light of what followed, to see their meaning and importance ; it is not surprising that neither party at the time perceived their full effect.
For the present, the victory of Parliament seemed to make little difference. The struggle was actively carried on. The Subsidy Bill was passed ; but the question of tonnage and poundage again emerged. Manwaring, the preacher of High Church doctrines and prerogative, was impeached and heavily fined. A Remonstrance was passed (June 11), attacking Arminianism and begging the King to remove Buckingham from his counsels. It was not, as before, an impeachment, but a vote of no confidence. A haughty reproof was all the answer that the Commons received. The discussion about tonnage and poundage raised the question whether these duties were included in the Petition of Right, or not. Verbally they were not; neither in the practice of the time nor in the common acceptation of terms were they regarded as a " tax " ; the omission of any direct mention of them from the Petition can hardly have been accidental. It would rather seem that neither side was anxious to complicate a matter already difficult enough by the introduction of so thorny a question. The two sides, inevitably, took different views ; and, when the House presented another Remonstrance declaring that the collection of tonnage and poundage "and other impositions" without consent was a "breach of fundamental liberties" and contrary to the Petition of Right, the King lost patience and prorogued Parliament (June 26).
As to the impolicy of some of his subsequent actions there can be
The subsidies voted had enabled Buckingham to push forward an expedition for the relief of La Rochelle, then closely besieged. The sturdy defenders of the city were reduced almost to the last gasp; but, owing to the continued disorganisation of government and the want of money, the English preparations dragged slowly on. Buckingham went down to Portsmouth to hurry them, and, while there, was murdered by John Felton, partly on personal, partly on public grounds (August 23, 1628). To the King the loss was irremediable. Of his affection for Buckingham there could be no doubt; he never had another favourite. But the murder had two notable results. In the first place it opened the way for a full reconciliation between the King and his wife ; and, as time went on, the Queen gained an influence over her husband hardly less strong, and certainly not less detrimental, than that which Buckingham had enjoyed. The second result was that the King and his people were now left face to face. While Buckingham lived, the blame of high-handed and inefficient rule could be laid upon him; henceforward this was impossible ; and the character of Charles' subsequent government shows that, for what went before, Buckingham, to say the least, was not alone to blame. With all his faults, he was no traitor; according to his lights, he did what he believed to be the best for his country, not (it is true) forgetting himself meanwhile. It was Buckingham's misfortune^ and the misfortune of the country, that he was violent, short-sighted, and incapable ; it was Charles' fault that, when all this was discerned by thinking and impartial men, he was yet retained in power.
The policy which Buckingham had initiated was pursued after his death. Early in September, 1628, the fleet sailed for La Rochelle. But the siege-works were too strong to be assailed with any hope of success ;. and two half-hearted attacks were, repulsed. Negotiations, which Buckingham had begun, led to a promise from Richelieu to grant toleration to the Huguenots; but La Rochelle must surrender first. Charles demanded that the siege should be raised ; and the negotiations were dropped. On October 30, Louis XIII entered the town ; and the ostensible justification of war with France came to an end.
Whether peace supervened or not, the ordinary revenue did not suffice for the regular expenses of State, without the Customs-in other words tonnage and poundage, and impositions on particular articles of trade. These duties therefore continued to be collected, in spite of resistance. A merchant named Richard Chambers refused, uttered high words at the Council-board, and was committed, but was subsequently bailed. The goods of other merchants, including those of John Rolle, a member of Parliament, were seized. On the side of religion, also, there were fresh causes of complaint. John Cosin, Bishop of Durham, a man of great piety and learning, had written a Book of Devotions, which was vehemently arraigned by one of the fiercest of Calvinists, William Prynne. An unseemly brawl had taken place over the position of the communion table at Grantham. The " setting up of pictures, lights, and images in churches," the sign of the cross, and other practices regarded as savouring of Rome, roused fanatical displeasure. In December, the King, with the assent of his Council, issued a Declaration, to be read by incumbents entering on a benefice, designed to promote uniformity and prevent disputes. The Declaration involved a profession of faith in the 39 Articles, a recognition of the royal supremacy and of the right of Convocation (under the King) to decide disputes about doctrine and ceremonies, and a prohibition of attempts to force upon the Articles a sense which they would not reasonably bear.
Neutral and colourless as this Declaration appears, it was blamed by Eliot, when Parliament met again (January 20), as countenancing innovations in religion. The Commons passed a resolution condemning the sense put upon the Articles by "Jesuits and Arminians," and accepted the Calvinistic " Lambeth Articles " of 1595 as expressing the creed of the Church of England. By this attempt to determine doctrine, they placed themselves in opposition to the King's Declaration, curtailed by implication his ecclesiastical supremacy, and adopted the intolerant attitude which was to have so large a share in bringing on the Civil War. At the same time they continued their attack upon the King's claim to the customs duties. The climax came when, on February 24, they discussed certain resolutions, which, after reviewing the whole area of religious grievances, proposed to deal out penalties to Papists and Arminians alike, and to enforce uniformity (after their own definition) upon the Church. On March £ the King ordered an adjournment. On Eliot's rising to address the House, the Speaker, Sir John Finch, attempted to stop the debate by leaving the room, but was forcibly held down in his chair. A confused and hurried discussion took place. Eventually, while Black Rod was knocking at the door, three resolutions, originally drawn by Eliot, were brought forward, asserting, in curt and peremptory terms, that whoever should "bring in innovations in religion" or "introduce Popery and Arminianism," and whoever should advise the taking of tonnage and poundage, or pay such duties
Parliament had, unconsciously no doubt, stretched forth its hand to grasp the sovereignty hitherto attached to the Crown. The King, in his efforts to retain control, had encroached on the ill-defined liberties of the subject. The old dual system of government, sustained by mutual confidence and the pressure of foreign and domestic danger, had broken down. Both parties had been forced, by the course of events and by the national growth, into revolutionary positions, in which a compromise was no longer possible; and subsequent events showed that Charles had determined that, if he could prevent it, a Parliament should never darken his doors again. To later observers, this appears a hazardous, even a hopeless, experiment ; it did not seem so then. Long periods had elapsed in Elizabeth's reign without Parliaments ; longer still in the reign of James I. The parliamentary system was far from being regarded as essential to good government. In Spain it had practically disappeared. In France the States General had not met since 1614, and were not to meet again till 1789. In Germany the Diet was already little more than a diplomatic council. Holland was a Republic, and therefore out of court. Why should not England follow the way of France and Spain ? All that seemed requisite was the adoption of a pacific policy abroad, the improvement of administration at home, and the gradual extension of autocratic control over the national sources of supply. Such was the policy which the Government now attempted to carry out.
The eleven years of autocratic government which followed are a period without a parallel in English history. A momentous experiment was tried, and failed. We have traced the steps which led to its trial ; we have now to examine the causes of its failure. With this object, it will not be necessary to relate the history of the period in such detail as was inevitable in the first four years of the reign, filled as they are with stirring and decisive events at home and abroad. A more summary treatment seems not only permissible but appropriate to the nature of the material. Everything depended on the avoidance of an excessive strain on the resources of government, whether through foreign complications or internal disorder, until the autocratic system could be built up on an unassailable basis. The process of establishing it, in Church and State, would (it might be foreseen) cause irritation and local difficulties ; but it was hoped that in time the nation, lulled by material prosperity, would acquiesce in its chains. Time was essential to the success of this policy ; and time, as we shall see, was denied. The fatal strain came at last, and from a quarter where it was least expected- from north of the Tweed; and the Scottish rebellion gave back to England her parliamentary system.
The events of the period may be treated under the three heads of foreign affairs, and of civil and ecclesiastical administration. After the dissolution of 1629, peace was evidently necessary; and peace was accordingly made, with little delay. Negotiations with France resulted in the Treaty of Susa (April 24), in which both Powers tacitly gave up their pretensions to interfere in each other's religious affairs. Richelieu's hands were thus set free for the pursuit of his European schemes ; and Charles could turn his attention to Spain. The sad plight of the Protestants in Germany demanded his assistance, for the Edict of Restitution had just preceded, and the Peace of Lübeck closely followed, his settlement with France. But his aims were almost purely dynastic ; in the fortunes of his sister, the Electress, he was deeply interested ; in those of Protestantism at large, very little. So far did he depart from the sound lines of Elizabethan policy that already the project of an alliance against the Dutch, which his son was afterwards to make with France, was held out as a bribe to Spain. Eventually the Treaty of Madrid (November 5, 1630) put an end to a war which had gone on for six years without any events worthy of note.
Charles was now at liberty to devote his resources, had he possessed any, to the pursuit of his darling object, the recovery of the Palatinate. This object he kept in view for the next ten years, with characteristic pertinacity as to ends, and a tortuous futility in the choice of means. In January, 1631, a treaty between England and Spain was actually signed at Madrid for the partition of the United Netherlands ; but Spain had no real intention of breaking with the Emperor for the sake of Charles' brother-in-law. Direct negotiations at Vienna led to no result ; it was known that Charles was in communication with Gustavus Adolphus, and was allowing volunteers to be raised in his behalf. After the battle of Breitenfeld, and while planning a closer alliance with the House of Habsburg, Charles nearly came to terms with Gustavus, who was ready to promise to reconquer the Palatinate for the Elector if he could obtain appreciable reinforcements from England. Charles, however, could only offer money; and the negotiation fell through. On the deaths of Gustavus and the Elector Frederick (November, 1632), Charles endeavoured to secure the active assistance of Richelieu, who was then planning an alliance with the States General, on the basis of a partition of the Spanish Netherlands. But Richelieu was too wary to pledge himself to a recovery of the whole Palatinate ; and Charles' overtures came to nothing. Shortly afterwards he is found intriguing with the Spanish Netherlands, with a view to their independence ; but his offers were betrayed to the Spanish Government. It seemed impossible for Charles to fix upon any settled line of policy. "The truth is," said the Spanish ambassador Necolalde, " you pull down with one hand as fast as you build up with the other."
Nevertheless, when, in September, 1633, Richelieu occupied Lorraine and, early in the following year, began laying hands on Elsass, and an
On May 19, 1635, France declared war against Spain ; and the great struggle on the Continent entered into a new phase. Charles' consort and his sister still pressed him to throw in his lot with France ; but, as usual, he could not make up his mind. A fleet, however, was becoming necessary, if only to protect commerce and maintain neutrality. English merchants were pillaged at sea; and Dutch and Dunkirkers fought their battles in English waters. In the summer of 1636 a fleet put to sea, but did nothing beyond levying toll on Dutch herring-boats. Incapable of taking a decided line, Charles wasted time by sending Arundel on a futile mission to Vienna, to offer aid towards a general pacification, and by despatching Leicester to Paris to discuss an alliance at the moment when Spanish troops, with the aid of English gold, were invading Picardy. Nevertheless Richelieu encouraged the negotiations, with a view to prevent England from joining Spain ; and, in February, 1637, a treaty seemed on the point of being signed. At the last moment, however, the French raised objections on points of detail ; the summer wore on ; Wentworth threw his weight on the side of peace ; and Richelieu's object, that of immobilising England for another year, was secured. Before the year was out, the Scottish troubles had begun ; and, though Charles fancied that he saw in them the hand of Richelieu, and leant again towards Spain, it became clear in 1638 that nothing could be done abroad till domestic disturbance was at an end. From this time forward English foreign policy ceased to have even the slight importance which it had possessed since 1629.
We return to that date, and take up the story of Charles' ecclesiastical
Some part at least of Laud's intentions may meet with general approval-his efforts to inculcate reverence for holy things, to establish decency and order, to beautify the fabrics of the Church, to call art to the aid of religion ; but it was in the highest degree unfortunate that, in carrying out these aims, he ignored all differences of mind and temperament, insisted on a rigid uniformity, and suppressed all opposition by tyrannical means. Over-careful of detail, superstitious, and of limited intelligence, he neither perceived the effect of his own acts, nor understood the temper of the people he was called upon to rule. Conscientious, bustling, and self-confident, he was also pedantic, narrow, and unsympathetic ; but he knew his own mind, as to both end and means, and thus won a dominant influence over his slow and vacillating sovereign, whose lofty views of monarchy and episcopacy he shared and stimulated to excess. The same principles attached him to Wentworth, who, in the struggle which he saw to be inevitable, had now definitely thrown in his lot with the Crown. Throughout the early part of the reign, he had stood for good government and a reasoned national policy, rather than for parliamentary rights or individual liberties ; and, when the compromise which he had sought to effect proved impossible, and he had to make his choice between King and Parliament, it was no treachery
The two chief instruments on which Laud relied to carry out his policy were the Courts of Star Chamber and High Commission, accepted organs of law and order under the Tudors, engines of despotism under their successors. In his own diocese of London, he strove to suppress, by the agency of the latter Court, the authors and printers of objectionable works, and to enforce the exact observance of the Book of Common Prayer. He compelled obedience to the King's Declaration as to the eschewing of controversial topics, and made some progress in putting down the " lecturers " (or preachers without cure of souls) who by their sermons disseminated the doctrines of Puritanism. As Chancellor of Oxford (1630) he reduced that University to order, revived academical discipline, and suppressed freedom of thought, or at least of discussion. The proceedings against Alexander Leighton in the Star Chamber (1630), on account of his book, Sion's plea against Prelacy, showed to what lengths Laud was ready to go in the effort to crush his opponents. The book not only attacked the Bishops with inconsiderate violence, but displayed the political tendencies of Presbyterianism by speaking disrespectfully of the King and urging Parliament (it was written in 1628) to resist a dissolution. It was not surprising that the Court should condemn such a polemic ; but nothing could excuse the cruel sentence of fine, imprisonment, and mutilation which was inflicted. While suppressing Puritan pamphleteers, Laud encouraged the controversialists on his own side. A dispute having arisen (1631) between Prynne and a Churchman named Page about bowing in church, Archbishop Abbot endeavoured to silence both ; but Laud encouraged Page
It was in the year 1633 that Charles paid that visit to Scotland whose results, described in another chapter, were to have so momentous an issue. In August of the same year Laud became Archbishop of Canterbury. It was a change of great importance, for Laud was now able to supervise the whole Church from a vantage-ground of authority which he had not hitherto enjoyed ; and the war against Puritanism and nonconformity was waged with more vigour and unity than before. The harshness of sentences increased. Ludowic Bowyer, a good-for-nothing who had libelled the Archbishop as a Papist at heart-an unfounded charge, but one which took some colour from the offer of a Cardinal's hat made to Laud from Rome shortly before-was sentenced (1633) to perpetual imprisonment, branding, mutilation, and a heavy fine. Next year Prynne, for his Histriomastix, in which he inveighed against stage-plays and was held to have reflected on the Queen and the Court, was sentenced to a similar penalty. A letter from the King bade the Archbishop put a stop to the "lecturers" by enforcing the canon which forbade ordination without cure of souls. Conventicles, or meetings of nonconformists for divine worship, were rigorously suppressed. The question of the position of the Holy Table in churches-a question intimately connected with rival doctrines of the Sacrament-was referred by the King to the jurisdiction of the Ordinary; which meant, in most cases, that it would be decided against the Puritans. King James' Declaration of Sports was revived and ordered to be read in churches; an act which implied a condemnation of the Puritan Sabbath. Emigration, the one refuge of ardent consciences from religious oppression, was checked, but nevertheless went on continuously. Meanwhile Laudians were promoted to high places ; Juxon became Bishop of London, and Neile was translated to York.
Between 1634 and 1637 Laud held a metropolitical visitation of all England south of the Trent. His Vicar-General, Brent, discovered much neglect and irregularity, and more or less nonconformity in most districts ; with equal energy, but with unequal justification, Laud set to work to redress both. A general order was issued to remove Communion tables to the east end of the church. This caused much disturbance ; and offenders were punished by the High Commission. It must be allowed that Laud was no respecter of persons; all offenders, high or low, were haled before him ; but the result, as Clarendon says, was that a bitter feeling of irritation and a longing for revenge grew up throughout the country, in the influential classes no less than among humbler folk. To these sentiments was added an increasing fear of Rome.
In 1634 Gregorio Panzani, an Oratorian, was sent to England to obtain an alleviation of the lot of Roman Catholics. He was welcomed at Court ; and his conversations with Windebank and others led to a scheme being started for reunion with the Roman Church. Some notable conversions to Romanism followed; and masses were publicly celebrated. The war of pamphlets became embittered. The unlicensed presses could not be stopped. In June, 1637, it was resolved to make an example of the leading writers on the Puritan side. William Prynne, Henry Burton, and John Bastwick-the first and the last of whom had previously undergone punishment-were brought before the Star Chamber on a charge of libelling the Bishops in various publications. They were condemned to the loss of their ears, heavy fines, and imprisonment for the rest of their lives. The sentences were carried out; and the prisoners were subsequently immured in Jersey, Guernsey, and the Scilly Islands. Such penalties fatally overshot their mark ; and the demeanour of the crowds who witnessed the execution and applauded the "martyrs" on their way to prison might have warned wiser men than Laud to hold their hands. But he did not desist ; and the punishment inflicted on John Lilburn (December, 1637), for distributing pamphlets, heightened the general indignation. Not even the Bishops were spared by their domineering head. Williams, the statesmanlike and astute, if somewhat slippery, Bishop of Lincoln, was brought before the Star Chamber (1637), on a charge of revealing State secrets, really for opposition to Laud, and sentenced by the High Commission to suspension and imprisonment.
In all this, it is not to be supposed that Laud and his colleagues were not supported by a strong party, both in Church and State. High Church doctrines, the creed of Laud, though not his temper or his methods, were upheld by such men as Falkland, John Hales, and Chillingworth, whose Religion of Protestants defended Anglicanism while rejecting infallibility and deprecating dogma. George Herbert, in his quiet rectory at Bemerton, breathed the spirit which two centuries later animated Keble. In him, as in Milton in his earlier works, for instance in II Penseroso, the higher Puritanism and an emotional consciousness of the charm and beauty of the Church seemed to meet. Nicholas Ferrar, at Little Gidding, combined purity of life and devotion to the Anglican faith with institutions which reflected the best side of Rome ; just as men like Baxter and Hutchinson displayed the elevation without the rancour of Puritanism. But, in the fierce conflict which was now engaged, these gentler spirits fell into the background, or were driven into one or another camp. The author of Comus could have felt little sympathy with Prynne and his Histriomastix ; but within three years Milton's temper had altered, and Lycidas illustrates the change. The sorrow and despair of men like Falkland, the wrath and embitterment of men like Milton, mark the fatal narrowness and incapacity of Laud and the blindness of the King on whom he leaned.
While the storm was thus gathering on the religious side, thé Government was putting itself more and more in the wrong with respect, to civil and political liberties. That this took place was largely due to the Law-Courts, which, by their fatal compliance with the King's demands, encouraged him in dangerous ways, and showed how hard it is for lawyers to be statesmen. A few months after the dissolution of 1629, Richard Chambers (to whose case reference has already been made) received sentence of fine and imprisonment from the Star Chamber. Refusing to submit, he prayed the Court of Exchequer to quash the decision on the ground, afterwards taken by the Long Parliament, that the Star Chamber had exceeded its statutory powers ; but, Chief Baron Walter having been suspended on account of his doubtful attitude, his three colleagues dismissed the plea. During the same time, a still more important case was running its course.
After the dissolution, nine members of Parliament, including Eliot, Seiden, Strode, Holies, and Valentine, were imprisoned for seditious words or conduct in the House. The Judges, having been consulted by the King as to the limits of parliamentary privilege, gave an ambiguous answer, doubtless disliking, as any judges would, the pernicious practice (to which Charles was addicted) of demanding general opinions without the presentation of a concrete case. Six of the prisoners thereupon applied for a writ of habeas corpus ; and their counsel demanded bail. When the case came on in King's Bench, the prisoners were not allowed to appear; but eventually bail was offered, conditional on a promise of good behaviour. This the prisoners refused to give. At last, in January, 1630, the Court gave judgment. It was argued by the counsel for the Crown that the behaviour of the prisoners had been seditious, and that privilege could not cover sedition. The Judges accepted the plea, and condemned the prisoners to fine and imprisonment. Either before or after this judgment, six of them made their peace and were released ; but Eliot died in prison (November, 1632), a martyr to his political faith ; and Strode and Valentine were kept in durance till the eve of the Short Parliament.
Meanwhile tonnage and poundage were regularly collected, in spite of much grumbling and some resistance on the part of the merchants ; and, under the direction of Weston or at the suggestion of ingenious persons like Noy, who had been a strong opponent of the Government, but became Attorney-General in 1631, the medieval armoury of royal rights was ransacked for other expedients in order to raise money for the Crown. In 1630 many persons of wealth and standing were compelled to take the dignity and responsibilities of knighthood, or to pay fines by way of " composition." A little later, the Forest Laws were furbished up. Many noblemen and others were fined enormous sums for encroachments on the ancient forest-bounds ; and large areas, with the population upon them, were brought within an oppressive and antiquated jurisdiction.
But what promised to be a far more lucrative and permanent source of supply was discovered when, in 1634, Noy suggested the revival of ship-money. This tax had (as was noted above) been demanded in 1628 in order to arm a fleet. But the country was then at war ; now it was at peace. It was no doubt advisable, and even necessary, to maintain a naval force afloat, if only for the protection of trade ; but the real object of the fleet, which has been already indicated, could not be divulged. Defence against pirates-who were a real and constant danger, even in the Channel-was put forward as a pretext; and in October, 1634, the first writs were issued, levying contributions for the fleet on the sea-ports and coast towns. Some opposition was offered in London ; but the Lord Mayor was scolded by the Council, and the City gave way. Elsewhere there was little difficulty; and a sum of about ,£100,000 was brought in.
Weston, who had been raised to the peerage as Earl of Portland, died in March, 1635 ; and the Treasury was put into commission, with Laud at its head. Here he displayed the same fussy activity, the same short-sighted views, that marked his headship of the Church. As in ecclesiastical matters he bent his energies to secure external uniformity at all costs, so in finance he exerted himself to bring money into the Treasury in every possible way, mindless of remoter consequences. Though monopolies to individuals were illegal, the King, in virtue of his right to regulate trade, was not precluded from granting patents to corporations-for which, of course, they had to pay. One of the chief of these patents was for the making of soap. Rival companies were formed, and the Court condescended to the most modern methods of advertising the wares of the company to whom they sold their preference. Eventually (1637) the King received £8 on every ton of soap made by the patentees. Other patents were granted for salt and starch, as well as to brewers, vintners, and brickmakers. The vintners were bullied into a payment of £30,000 a year. The system involved an odious excise, paid by the consumer, on several necessities of life. At the same time the forest claims were actively pushed in all parts of England; and Richmond Park was enclosed, at great expense. A new Book of Rates was issued, considerably increasing the customs. Still the revenue was not equal to the expenditure ; and there was a heavy debt.
The first experiment in levying ship-money had been so successful that in 1635 it was repeated, but with an ominous extension. Lord Keeper Coventry, in an address to the Judges, urged the plea that since the nation, as a whole, was concerned in the defence of trade, therefore the whole nation should pay for such defence. It was a dangerous parody of Edward I's principle, that what concerned all should be approved by all ; and it was put forward in support of a policy the very opposite of that great King's. The second writs were issued in August ; the total sum required, about £200,000, was not heavy, when spread over
In March, 1636, Juxon, Bishop of London, became Lord Treasurer ; but he was a creature of Laud's, and Laud's financial policy went on unchanged. In October the ship-money writs were issued for the third time. It was now evident that what had been generally regarded as a temporary expedient was intended to be a permanent source of supply. The resistance at once took on a new character. It was ominous that the Peers now showed a tendency to oppose. Danby ventured to remonstrate with the King ; Warwick, called to account for his opposition in Essex, boldly justified his attitude. The Judges were again consulted. This time all twelve of them gave it as their opinion that the King was the sole judge of public danger and the consequent necessity of supply, and might at his pleasure levy aid. The King, as we have seen, was meditating active intervention abroad; but Wentworth dissuaded him from war. He had a fleet, but no army ; and, so long as he had nothing but a fleet, he " stood but upon one leg." Let him wait till he could raise an army ; he would then be safe at home and feared abroad. This was the Cromwellian despotism foreshadowed ; but it was no more than a logical extension of the principle which the Judges had laid down.
In November, 1637, the question was brought to the test of law. Lord Saye and John Hampden refused to pay; and Hampden's case was selected to be heard. His counsel, St John, argued that, if the King could lay taxes as he pleased, no man could call anything his own. Holborne pointed out that the writ made no mention of danger to the State, and denied outright that the King was the proper judge. Lyttelton (Solicitor-General) replied that, in time of danger, it might be impossible to summon Parliament; and Bankes (Attorney-General) claimed that the right of decision was "innate in the person of an absolute King and in the persons of the Kings of England." The King, he concluded, " is the soul of this body, whose proper act is to command." It is needless to point out the revolutionary character of this contention, which was destructive of the old constitution. Nevertheless, early in 1638, a majority of the Judges adopted it. Berkeley declared that " Rex is lex " ; and Chief-Justice Finch denied that any Act of Parliament could take away the sovereignty of the King. Seven of the Judges decided for the Crown, and five (on various grounds) for Hampden. By so narrow a majority was parliamentary government condemned.
But already the storm was brewing in the north which was to demolish the fabric that Charles and his supporters had so laboriously
Unable to raise funds in his own country, Charles turned to France and Spain ; but his efforts in these directions were unsuccessful. The general alarm and distrust were increased by an incident, which shows to what a low ebb his power was reduced. A Spanish fleet, which had taken refuge in the Downs, was attacked and destroyed by the Dutch. The rumour spread that it was conveying troops for the assistance of the King. In September, Wentworth came to England, and thenceforward assumed a dominant position in the King's counsels. The Scottish Commissioners, who had come south to get Charles' consent to the measures of their General Assembly, were dismissed without a settlement ; and, in order to obtain funds for coercing Scotland, Wentworth advised the summons of a Parliament. In January, 1640, he was raised to the peerage as Earl of Strafford.
On April 13, Parliament met, after an interval of ten years. The Scots had tried to open negotiations with France. Richelieu had put their overtures aside ; but a letter from the Covenanters, intended for Louis, had fallen into Charles' hands. On this he relied for persuading the Commons to open their purses for a war against the traitors in the north. But the House was of a different mind. Pym at once took the lead in a great speech, in which, after reviewing, in a comprehensive survey but in studiously temperate language, the long list of civil and religious grievances, he laid it down that " the powers of Parliament are to the body politic as the rational faculties of the soul to a man," and declared the evil of evils to be the intermission of Parliaments. Following his guidance, the House resolved that a full consideration of their wrongs must precede supply. The King sought the aid of the Lords, who, by
The appeal to the nation had been confessedly an experiment. It failed ; and Charles was thrown back on his own resources. Nothing daunted, Strafford now advised strong measures against the Scots. " You have an army in Ireland," he is reported to have said in Council, "which you may employ here to reduce this kingdom." The accuracy of the report may be doubted, and the exact meaning of the words is obscure ; but, whether " this kingdom " meant England or Scotland, the phrase was to prove his ruin. He had himself got a vote of four subsidies from the Irish Parliament shortly before the English Parliament met ; and the Council, at his instigation, had raised a considerable loan. Convocation, which, against all precedent, had continued sitting after Parliament was dissolved, and passed certain canons with a declaration in favour of Divine Right, voted six subsidies from the clergy. But the Irish Parliament now hesitated to carry its vote into effect ; and London offered strenuous opposition to an order to raise 4000 men. The army which was collected in the north was worse than before; it was disaffected, even mutinous ; and it was clearly no match for the Scots.
In the second Bishops' War, which began in June, 1640, the Scots took the initiative. Demanding a free Parliament in England, they forced the passage of the Tweed at Newburn and occupied Newcastle. Their demand was supported by the petition of twelve English Peers, who advised the King to call a Parliament, punish evil counsellors, and make terms with the Scots. In England there was joy at the Scottish invasion ; and the parliamentary leaders had no scruple in communicating with their friends. Driven to desperation, Charles reverted to a practice obsolete since the fourteenth century, and summoned a great Council of Peers to meet at York. But the body of the nobility supported the twelve petitioners ; riots in London showed the dangerous temper of the populace; and Charles was forced to negotiate with the Scots. The Treaty of Ripon conceded their demands ; and writs for a Parliament were issued. With the Scots in arms on English soil, and an utterly exhausted exchequer, it would be impossible to deal with this Parliament as with the last. The policy of "Thorough" had definitely broken down.