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CHELTENHAM: R. EDWARDS, PRINTER AND BINDER, 396, HIGH STREET,

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PREFACE.

No period of English history can claim equal importance with that of the Stuarts. In this period was determined the vital question whether England should remain a free country, or whether the same absolutism should be established here as on the continent. It is true, England had its Magna Charta and its parliament; and so other European nations could at one time boast of public liberty and free institutions. They existed no longer. Nor was such a fate to England a remote probability, when a man like Clarendon could write, “those foundations of right, by which men valued their security, to the apprehension and understanding of wise men, [were] never more in danger to be destroyed”. But our forefathers were not content to be despoiled without a struggle; they possessed not more the wit to discern the signs of the times, than a public spirit to enter upon a eril contest with kingly prerogative.

The reigns of the first two Stuarts present to us all the more important constitutional questions affecting the liberties of the subject, which became matters of dispute, by reason of the attempt of those sovereigns to override them, in the exercise of an undue prerogative. And when after a struggle for nearly fifty years (1640-88), the Revolution became an accomplished fact; there yet remained many important constitutional points to be determined. For as Smyth observes “the constitution was settling, not settled ; and questions of great importance were agitated during the whole reign of William. We have the Civil List, the Place Bill, the Triennial Bill, the Treason Bill, the question of the liberty of the press, the question of standing armies, of the responsibility of ministers, and finally, we have the veto of the king more than once exercised, and even a sort of debate of the Commons upon the assertion of the prerogative."

It has been the purpose of the writer to construct, for the use of students, a Manual of the Stuart Period, that skould be a medium between the text-books now used in schools and colleges, and the larger histories, to which indeed the present volume is intended to be an introduction. So far as the general facts of each reign are concerned, the text is formed on a comparison of those of Hume and Smollett, Lingard, the Pictorial History, Lord Macaulay, Hallam, and Guizot, with occasional references to original authorities. For the chronology, there have been consulted in addition, the Oxford Tables, and a valuable little work published at Oxford, entitled “Annals of England”. The supplementary chapter on National Progress cannot claim equal value with the preceding part of the book; and yet more labor was bestowed upon it, and the facts gathered only from writers of established credit. Till there is a larger collection of trust-worthy materials, it is difficult to see how this department of history can be satisfactorily written.

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