« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
THE FIRST PARLIAMENT-GRIEVANCES.
queen of England who in true beauty is beyond the long-wooed Infanta ;"* for they had learnt that concessions as strong had been made that Charles might wed this "most absolute delicate lady" of France.† Henrietta's "radiant and sparkling black eye" enchanted those who gazed as she dined in public at Whitehall; but there was many a country gentleman in the House of Commons who thought the daughters of England as fair and far less dangerous. Henrietta brought twenty-nine priests in her train; and mass was celebrated at the palace on Sundays and saints' days. She showed temper too; and one who was driven with the crowd out of the public dining room, because it was too hot, said, "I suppose none but a queen could cast such a scowl." § In the House of Commons were the old opponents of the absolute kingship of James, who were far from the mood which the lordkeeper, Coventry, thought befitting-he who in opening the next session talked of the "incomparable distance between the supreme height and majesty of a mighty monarch and the submissive awe and lowliness of loyal subjects.' When they were told by the courtly sir Dudley Carleton that in all Christian kingdoms there were once parliaments, till the monarchs overthrew these turbulent assemblies, and stood upon their prerogatives, they the more resolved that the example should not be followed in England; and when he illogically compared the misery of the people in foreign countries with the happy state of the English who had store of flesh on their backs, they became more assured that the prosperity of the people mainly depended upon their own resolution to maintain their freedom. Hence, when a supply was asked, they came to the old question of unredressed grievances. They granted a very limited subsidy; and would only vote tonnage and poundage for one year. The plague was raging in London. "While we are now speaking," said a member, "the bell is tolling every minute." The parliament was adjourned to Oxford. A disgraceful transaction had taken place, which was well calculated to make the Commons very cautious of granting further supplies. Seven ships had been lent to the king of France, which had been engaged under pretence of serving against Austria. They were employed against the French protestants who were defending themselves at La Rochelle. When Frenchmen were taken on board, the English sailors deserted. The king grew importunate for more supplies; the Commons complained of the mismanagement of public affairs. An abrupt dissolution took place on the 12th of August.
To counteract the influence of parliament, and to show the injustice of its want of confidence in the government, some bold and showy enterprise was to be undertaken. A great fleet was to be fitted out against Spain. The cost of the expedition was to be provided for without asking supplies from a parsimonious and suspicious House of Commons. Writs were issued under the Privy Seal, demanding loans from private persons; and chiefly from those who had presumed to think that grants of money and redress of grievances should go together. If a loan was refused by a person of station and local authority he was struck out of the Commission of the Peace. By these and other arbitrary means a fleet of eighty sail was dispatched from the Downs in October, under vague instructions to intercept the Spanish treasure ships, and * Howel, section iv., letter 34. + D'Ewes, vol. i. p. 272. Mordant to Mead. Ellis, First Series, vol. iii. p. 206.
NAVAL FAILURES-THE SECOND PARLIAMENT.
[1626. to land an army on the coast of Spain. The command of this armament was given to a landsman, lord Wimbledon. The ten thousand English troops, who had been set on shore near Cadiz, accomplished no greater feat than plundering the "cellars of sweet wines, where many hundreds of them being surprised, and found dead drunk, the Spaniards came and tore off their ears, and plucked out their eyes."* The gallant commander now led his disorderly men back to their ships, to look after the rich fleet that was coming from the Indies. While he was thus master of those seas, the rich fleet got safe into Lisbon. A contagious disease broke out in one ship; and the sick men being distributed amongst all the other ships, some thousands died before an English port was again made. Parliament was not to be propitiated by Buckingham's great scheme for raising money by the same process that was so successful in the hands of the Drakes and Frobishers. During twenty years of weak and corrupt government the race of naval heroes had died out.
A new parliament met on the 6th of February, 1626. The proceeds of the forced loans were gone, and sums that had been raised by pawning the crown jewels to the Dutch had also disappeared. The constitutional mode of raising money must again be resorted to, however unwillingly. The pariament now assembled has been called a "great, warm, and ruffling parliament." + It saw that the government of England by a rash and presumptuous minion, whose continued influence was not obtained by his talents or his honesty, was incompatible with the honour and safety of the country. Committees were appointed in both houses; and they traced the disgrace of the national flag, and the corruptions of the time, to Buckingham. When supplies were demanded, the Commons again demanded redress of wrongs. The king assumed a tone that irritated the representatives of the people without alarming them: "I must let you know," said Charles in a message, "that I will not allow any of my servants to be questioned amongst you, much less such as are of eminent place, and near unto me." threatened that if they did not hasten for his supply it would be worse for themselves. There were men in that house who were unmoved by this "representation of great fear." The Commons locked their doors; and after a long deliberation resolved upon the impeachment of Buckingham. The business was committed to eight managers. The most eloquent man in the house, sir John Eliot, discharged his duty of summing up the charges, with a boldness that must have been appalling. He complained of Buckingham's oppressions and his extortions; his engrossing of all offices for himself and his kindred; his pride and his covetousness: his boundless ambition. Finally, he compared the duke to Sejanus: and exclaimed to the assembled peers, "My lords, you see the man." Charles was transported with rage. If Buckingham was Sejanus, he, the king, must be Tiberius. instantly arrested, as well as sir Dudley Digges, who had opened the charges. The house refused to proceed to any business whilst their pri vileges were thus violated. Digges made some submission and was speedily released. Eliot refused any compromise. After eight days' confinement in the Tower the king saw it was not a time for the continuance of this ɔminous contest; and Eliot again took his place in the house. Subsidies had been agreed to be voted; but while these quarrels were going on no Howel, vol. i. sect. 4, p. 184. + Whitelocke's "Memorials."
CONTESTS OF PEERS AND COMMONS WITH THE CROWN.
formal Act had been passed for their levy. The king, with the impeachment hanging over the head of Buckingham, commanded the University of Cambridge to elect the obnoxious minister to its Chancellorship, then vacant. There was a spirited resistance to this ill-timed act of power; but the election of the duke was carried by a small majority. Buckingham had replied to the articles of impeachment; and had expressed his wish for a regular trial. The king interposed, and sent a peremptory message to the Commons, demanding a supply without condition. They drew up a Remonstrance; and being suddenly summoned to the House of Peers, they found commissioners of the Crown assembled to dissolve the parliament. The Remonstrance was useless; but the spirit which had called it forth became permanent—a principle which no violent measures could weaken or destroy. At this crisis the sovereign had not, as in previous times, a subservient House of Peers to support any outbreak of despotic power. He had caused the earl of Arundel to be arrested, during the sitting of parliament, for some private offence. The Lords asserted their privilege that no peer should be arrested, the parliament being sitting, except for treason or felony, or for refusing "to give surety for the peace." Arundel was discharged. The earl of Bristol was obnoxious to the court; for he was the person best acquainted with the proceedings regarding the Spanish marriage. He was not summoned to this parliament. The Peers insisted that the earl should receive his summons. He was ordered by a royal letter not to take his place. But he did take his place; and laid the secretary's letter before the House. Bristol was then suddenly charged at the bar of the Lords as a traitor. The Peers insisted that Bristol should be allowed to make his accusation against Buckingham before the charge against himself was heard. He brought forward his allegations against the duke for his conduct in Spain, and exhibited the falsehood of his representations upon his return to England. The earl was then accused by the attorney-general for his conduct as ambassador, the facts alleged against him being dependent on the king's own testimony. The Peers sent to the judges for their opinion, whether such testimony was to be admitted. The judges were commanded by the king not to return an answer. Bristol made a satisfactory reply to the charges against him. The king and his minister were alone damaged by these impolitic proceedings.
Thus, then, had Charles dismissed two parliaments within fifteen months of his accession to the throne. The Commons had declared their intention to
grant five subsidies-" a proportion," says Clarendon, scarce ever before heard of in parliament." But they were required to grant them without their complaints being listened to; and the king, by his passionate resolution to dissolve, was again left to unconstitutional devices. "That meeting," continues Clarendon, "being upon very unpopular and unplausible reasons dissolved, these five subsidies were exacted, throughout the whole kingdom, with the same rigour, as if, in truth, an Act had passed to that purpose. Divers gentlemen of prime quality, in several counties of England, were, for refusing to pay the same, committed to prison, with great rigour and extraordinary circumstances."* But it was not the "divers gentlemen of prime quality
SUBSIDIES ILLEGALLY LEVIED-IMPRISONMENTS.
[1626. only, who resisted these arbitrary exactions. "On Monday," says a contemporary, "the judges sat in Westminster Hall to persuade the people to pay subsidies, but there arose a great tumultuous shout amongst them, ' A par·liament, a parliament, else no subsidies.' "* There were five thousand whose voices shook that roof with their protest against tyranny. The name of subsidy being found so likely to conjure up a spirit that could not readily be laid, commissioners were sent out to accomplish the same result by a general loan from every subject, according to the proportion at which he was rated in the last subsidy that had been granted by parliament. The pretensions of the crown were advocated from the pulpit, and the disobedient were threatened with more than temporal penalties. But the denunciations of the servile portion of the clergy were probably less efficacious than the examples of men of station and influence being committed to the Fleet and the Gatehouse, for their steady refusal of an illegal demand; of tradesmen and artificers being dragged from their homes for imprisonment or for forced service in the army or navy; of licentious soldiers, who had returned from the miserable expedition to Spain, being quartered in the houses of those who knew their rights and dared to maintain them. Some of the more distinguished of the gentlemen who had been committed to prison sued the King's Bench for a writ of habeas-corpus. The writ was granted; but the warden of the Fleet made a return that they were committed by a warrant of the privy council, by the special command of the king, but which warrant specified no cause of imprisonment. The argument upon this return was of the highest importance to establish "the fundamental immunity of English subjects from arbitrary detention." It was not that the judges decided against the Crown, but that the discussion of the question eventually led to the establishment of the principle by the Statute of Charles II. The arguments of Selden and Noy for the liberty of the subject were heard in the court of King's Bench with shouting and clapping of hands; but they had a far higher influence. They sank into the hearts of the people, and sent them to ponder the words of Selden, "If Magna Charta were fully executed, as it ought to be, every man would enjoy his liberty better than he doth."
In the orders that were issued to the deputy-lieutenants and justices to enforce these exactions, the king affirmed that he was threatened with invasion. This was in July, 1626. The alarm of invasion was probably only a pretext "in order to shelter the king's illegal proceedings." Another fleet was sent to sea, under the earl of Denbigh; and there was another series of neglects and disasters. But there was a growing cause of quarrel with France as well as with Spain, which would very speedily render the prospect of invasion not so improbable. In the early days of their union the king and queen did not live without serious disagreements. In November, 1625, Charles wrote to Buckingham, who was in Paris, desiring that the duke would communicate to the queen-mother the king's intention "to put away the Monsieurs "the numerous priests and other attendants of Henrietta. There is another letter in which he complains that the queen does not treat him with due respect. At length Charles made up his mind to get rid of these enemies of his happiness, as disagreeable to his people as to himself.
QUEEN'S FOREIGN ATTENDANTS DISMISSED.
On the 7th of August, 1626, he writes to Buckingham, "I command you to send all the French away to-morrow out of the town. If you can, by fair means; but stick not long in disputing. Otherwise force them away, driving them away like so many wild beasts, until you have shipped them." They * refused to go; but when the captain of the guard with his yeomen and heralds appeared at Somerset House, where the French were established, they went on board the barges prepared for them, and afterwards travelled from Gravesend to Dover in forty coaches. In four days they were landed in France. The queen, according to the gossiping Howel, "broke the glasswindows and tore her hair." He adds, "I fear this will breed ill-blood 'twixt us and France;" and he was right. In October came over marshal Bassompierre, as a special ambassador, to remedy these misunderstandings. His account of his embassy is full of curious details of the English court. He saw Buckingham at his state palace of York House (Jorchaux, the Frenchman writes), which James had given to the favourite, having acquired it by exchange with the archbishopric of York. Here Buckingham had displayed his wonted extravagance. It was "more richly fitted up than any other I saw," says Bassompierre. When the ambassador went to see the king at Hampton Court, Buckingham was exceedingly anxious that the audience should be private. "He swore to me," writes Bassompierre, "that the only reason which obliged the king to this was, that he could not help putting himself into a passion, in treating the matters about which I had to speak to him, which would not be decent on the high dais, in sight of the chief persons of the kingdom, both men and women; that the queen, his wife, was close to him, who, incensed at the dismissal of her servants, might commit some extravagance, and cry in spite of everybody." Bassompierre at last consented to say nothing but ceremonial words at this public audience. He had afterwards a private interview, at which the king did "put himself into a great passion;" and he "witnessed, there, an instance of great boldness, not to say impudence, of the duke of Buckingham, which was, that when he saw us the most warmed, he ran up suddenly and threw himself between the king and me, saying, 'I ar am come to keep the peace between you two.'" In a letter to the king of France describing this interview, Bassompierre relates the spirited speech which he made to Charles when asked by him why he did not execute his commission to declare war: "I told him, that I did not hold the office of herald to declare war, but that of marshal of France to conduct it whenever your majesty should resolve upon it." In a very short time there was war with France. It has been usual to ascribe this outbreak of hostility, between two courts connected by marriage, solely to the presumption and licentious. ness of Buckingham. "He had the ambition," says Clarendon, "to fix his eyes upon, and to dedicate his most violent affection to, a lady of a very sublime quality, and to pursue it with most importunate addresses." This lady was Anne of Austria, the queen of Louis XIII. She was a neglected wife, and heard with too much levity the flatteries of the handsome duke. These familiarities took place when Buckingham went to France to bring over Henrietta. It was intimated to him that he had better decline such attempts if he would escape assassination; but he swore, adds Clarendon, "that he would
*Ellis, First Series, vol. iii. p. 244.