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WAR WITH FRANCE-ITS CAUSES.
[1627. see and speak to that lady in spite of the strength and power of France." The historian of "the Rebellion" does not exhibit the court of England in a very favourable light when he ascribes the origin of a great war to the profligacy of so unworthy a person as George Villiers. But such an assumption is calculated to hide the real cause of this war-the broken faith of England to France upon the most important points of the marriage-treaty. In defiance of public opinion James and Charles had solemnly agreed that the French princess should have the education of her children till they were twelve years old. Henrietta wrote to the pope to protest that if her marriage were blessed with lineage she would "make no choice of any but Catholic persons to nurse and bring up the children that may be born of it." It is clear that the court of France expected from this secret treaty not only toleration for Roman Catholics, but an open encouragement, which the king, however bound by his promise, could not venture to grant. The explanation which the able historian of the popes offers of the origin of this war is far more satisfactory than the ordinary solution. Pope Urban VIII., says Ranke, represented to the French ambassador how offensive it was to France, that the English by no means adhered to the promises made at the marriage. Either Louis XIII. ought to compel the fulfilment of these engagements, or wrest the crown from a heretic prince who was a violator of his word. To the Spanish ambassador the pope said that Philip IV. was bound to succour his kinswoman, the queen of England, who was suffering oppression on account of her religion. On the 20th of April, 1627, a treaty was signed between the French minister, Richelieu, and the Spanish minister, Olivarez, by which it was agreed that the two powers should unite in an invasion of England. It was also agreed that in the event of conquest the pope should have Ireland, and govern it by a viceroy. "While the Catholic powers were devising this vast plan of an attack on England, it fell out that they were themselves surprised by an attack from England."* This solution of an historical problem, the cause of the French war, is far more consistent with probability than Charles's " alliance with the Huguenot party in consequence merely of Buckingham's unwarrantable hostility to France, founded on the most extraordinary motives." The treaty between France and Spain had become known to the Venetian ambassador at Paris, and it was not likely that the knowledge would not have been communicated to the English government, with which the Venetians held friendly relations. It is creditable to the statesmanship of Buckingham that he resolved to anticipate the projected attack upon England by a strenuous aid to the French Protestants, who were asserting their religious freedom in the ancient stronghold of the reformers, La Rochelle. The policy of the war was calculated to redeem the odium into which Buckingham had fallen. The conduct of the war, under his own generalship, only brought on him a deeper public indignation.
On the 27th of June, 1627, whilst cardinal Richelieu was preparing to besiege La Rochelle, Buckingham set sail from Portsmouth with a fleet of a hundred ships, carrying six or seven thousand land forces. At the latter end of July he appeared before La Rochelle, and proffered his assistance in the defence of the town. The inhabitants, perhaps remembering that English
* See the curious relation in Ranke, vol. ii. book vii. chap. 3.
LA ROCHELLE-EXPEDITION TO THE ISLE OF RHÉ.
ships had been lent to France to be employed against them, had a natural distrust of the proffered friendship; and declined to open their gates to the duke. It was then determined to occupy the adjacent island of Rhé. Buckingham and his forces landed, having driven back the troops which opposed him. But he wanted the skill of a general, though his personal courage cannot reasonably be doubted. His plans were unformed. He remained inactive whilst the French threw reinforcements and provisions into their forts. He besieged the principal fort of St. Martin without success; and at the time when further aid from England was expected, raised the siege and retreated towards his ships. "The retreat," says Clarendon, "had
Portsmouth and Portsea, Gosport, and Porchester Castle in the Seventeenth Century.
been a rout without an enemy; and the French had their revenge by the disorder and confusion of the English themselves, in which great numbers of noble and ignoble were crowded to death or drowned." The people had their joke upon this disastrous expedition, for they called the isle of Rhé "the isle of Rue;" but there was something more enduring than popular sarcasm. There were mutinies, after Buckingham's return in the autumn, in the fleet and army. The people refused to suffer the soldiers to be billeted on them, and opposed an impress of fresh forces. Martial law was proclaimed, and many were executed; "which," says Clarendon, "raised an asperity in the minds of more than of the common people." The general discontent was increased by an inland army being retained during the winter. Sir Robert Cotton represented to the king that this was an unexampled course; that
THE THIRD PARLIAMENT.
[1628. Elizabeth, even in 1588, adopted no such measure; and that the people considered that this army was kept on foot to "subject their fortunes to the will of power rather than of law, and to make good some further breach upon their liberties at home, rather than defend them from any force abroad." There was a general disaffection throughout the country. "This distemper,' says Clarendon, "was so universal, that the least spark still meeting with combustible matter enough to make a flame, all wise men looked upon it as the prediction of the destruction and dissolution that would follow. Nor was there a serenity in the countenance of any man, who had age and experience enough to consider things to come." In this temper of the people resort was once more had to a parliament, to supply the urgent necessities created by this ill-conducted war.
In summoning his third parliament the king evinced some faint indication of a desire for a better understanding with his people, by releasing those who had been imprisoned for refusing to contribute to the forced loan of the previous year. From seventy-seven persons thus released no submission was required; and no concession was offered to them for the wrong. Many of them were men of fortune; and the sense of the injustice which had been done to them was shown by their being returned to the parliament which met on the 17th of March. No House of Commons more powerful from the station, the wealth, and the talent of its members, was ever before assembled in England. In the letter of a contemporary it is said, "I heard a lord intimate they were able to buy the Upper House over, notwithstanding there be of lords temporal to the number of a hundred and eighteen; and what lord in England would be followed by so many freeholders as some of these are ?" The ardour of their debates, the energy of their resolves, were tempered by a patience and gravity which is the more remarkable considering the personal indignities which some of their body had received. Clarendon acknowledges that he does not know any formed act of either house that was not agreeable to the wisdom and justice of great courts; and that "whoever considers the acts of power and injustice of some of the ministers in the intervals of parliament, will not be much scandalised at the warmth and vivacity of those meetings." The king opened this parliament with words which the house of Stuart seemed to think essential to its dignity. He asked for a supply; if denied a speedy relief to his necessities he would resort to other means. "Take not this as threatening," he added; "I scorn to threaten any but my equals." The menace passed unnoticed. The Commons knew that commissioners had been appointed to levy impositions, if there was an inevitable necessity; and that a contract had been entered into for sending over troops and arms from Flanders, under pretence to defend the country from invasion. They resolved to grant a large supply,-five subsidies,-to be paid within a year. Put your excellent resolution in the form of a bill, said the courtiers. Wait a little, was the answer. We must have securities that his money shall be no longer exacted from the subject in the form of loans; that no person shall be imprisoned or molested for refusing such loans; that soldiers shall not be billeted on private persons; that commissions for martial law shall be revoked or annulled.
* Quoted from Sloane's MSS. in Mr. Forster's "Life of Sir John Eliot," p. 57, note.
Upon these demands was founded the "Petition of Right" which became one of the Statutes of the realm. It were long to tell how hard was the struggle before this memorable petition became a law. Coke, in a conference between the Lords and Commons, exclaimed," it lies not under Mr. Attorney's cap to answer one of our arguments." Selden stated that he had written out with his own hand all the precedents which existed in the records, and that Mr. Attorney would not find one omitted. Wentworth (afterwards Strafford) said "We vindicate-what? new things? No; our ancient, legal, and vital liberties, by re-enforcing the laws enacted by our ancestors; by setting such a seal upon them as no licentious spirit shall dare hereafter to enter upon them." The king was extremely unwilling to give up what he thought his right of arbitrary imprisonment; and he secretly submitted certain questions to the judges, the most material of which was whether, in assenting to the Commons' petition, he should not exclude himself from committing a subject without showing cause. The judges held out an indirect promise that this apprehended limitation should not be the effect of the Petition if it should become law. The lord-keeper had declared that the king held Magna Charta and the other Statutes which protected the liberty of the subject to be in force, and that they would find as much security in his royal word as in any law that they could make. The secretary, Cook, when he asked in the name of the king, whether the House would rest on the royal word, was answered thus by Pym: "We have his majesty's coronation oath to maintain the laws of England what need we then to take his word?" After many attempts to shake the resolution of the Commons, the bill was passed; and the Houses were assembled to hear the royal assent. It was given in these words: "The king willeth that right be done according to the laws and customs of the realm, and that the Statutes be put in due execution, that the subjects may have no cause to complain of any wrong or oppression contrary to their just rights and liberties; to the preservation whereof he holds himself in conscience as well obliged, as of his prerogative." Smooth words; but not such as would content the Commons, who had been accustomed to hear a much more explicit answer from the throne, when a Petition was to become a law. The Commons returned to their deliberations. "Sir John Eliot," writes a member of the house, Thomas Alured, "moved that as we intended to furnish his majesty with money, we should also supply him with counsel." His speech," wherein," says Rushworth, "he gave forth so full and lively a representation of grievances, both general and particular, as if they had never before been mentioned,"-was a masterpiece of argument and invective. The king's evasive words formed no topic of this harangue; but "there wanted not some who said that speech was made out of distrust of his majesty's answer to the petition."* On the day after Eliot had spoken, the Commons had a message from the king to dispatch their old business without entertaining new; and the day following another message, requiring them "not to cast or lay any aspersion upon any minister of his majesty." Then was presented a scene such as the tame patriotism of modern times may have difficulty in comprehending. Mr. Alured thus describes it in his letter:
* Rushworth. Eliot's speech is imperfectly given by that collector; and is reprinted, with connecting observations, in Mr. Forster's "Life of Eliot."
BUCKINGHAM DENOUNCED IN THE COMMONS-PROROGATION [1628.
"Sir Robert Philips of Somersetshire spake, and mingled his words with weeping. Mr. Pym did the like. Sir Edward Coke, overcome with passion, seeing the desolation likely to ensue, was forced to sit down when he began to speak, by the abundance of tears.' The Speaker begged to retire; and the House went into committee. Then Coke rose, and with a solemnity befitting his advanced age, denounced the duke of Buckingham as the author and cause of all the miseries of the country. There was something in that passion of tears against which the habitual obstinacy of Charles could not contend. The Petition of Right was assented to by the king in the usual manner after the two Houses had requested him to give a satisfactory answer. It now stands in the Statute Book as "The Petition exhibited to his Majesty by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, concerning divers rights and liberties of the subjects: with the King's Majesty's royal answer thereto in full parliament." That answer is, "Soit droit fait come est desire." The Commons passed their bill of subsidies; and there were bonfires and bell-ringing throughout the land, for there was hope that the old days of oppression were passed. But the Commons were unwilling to leave their work imperfectly finished; and they proceeded to prepare a bill to grant the king tonnage and poundage, but delayed passing it till they had delivered a remonstrance against the levy of dues upon merchandise without consent of parliament. The king stopped the remonstrance by a prorogation; and told the Commons that he drew this
branch of his revenue by his prerogative, and would not submit to have his right questioned.
The war with France had assumed the aspect of a trial of strength. between Buckingham and Richelieu. Without admitting the very questionable theory that they were rivals for the favour of Anne of Austria, there can be no doubt that on either side there was more than ordinary political hostility. The war has been called a duel between these two ministers. Never was duel fought with greater inequality. Buckingham's highest praise
* This interesting letter is to be found in Rushworth, and in "Acta Regia," p. 666.
3 Car. I. c. 1.