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PARLIAMENT DISSOLVED-MEMBERS IMPRISONED-PEACE.
same; should be reputed a capital enemy to the kingdom and commonwealth. On the 2nd of March Eliot brought forward these matters, in the shape of a remonstrance. The Speaker refused to read the paper; the clerk at the table refused to read it. Eliot then read it himself, and demanded that it should be put to the vote. The Speaker refused; for "he had been commanded otherwise by the king." He rose to quit the chair; but two members dragged him back, and there forcibly held him. Eliot threw his remonstrance on the floor; and placed his protestations in the hand of Denzil Hollis, who put them to the vote. They were carried by acclamation. The Commons then adjourned to the 10th of March. Three days after, Eliot, Selden, and other members, were summoned before the Privy Council; and four were committed to the Tower. They refused to answer out of parliament for what they had done as members. The subsequent proceedings against them belong to the unhappy period when England was under absolute government for eleven years. On the 10th of March Charles dissolved the parliament, denouncing some members of the Lower House as "vipers;" and he issued a proclamation which, says Clarendon," was commonly understood to interdict all men to speak of another parliament."
Before entering upon the course which was now before him of governing without parliaments, the king and his advisers saw that it would be dangerous to have the responsibility of conducting a foreign war amidst national discontents. Peace was concluded with France and Spain in the course of the next year. One public effort was made for the cause of Protestant liberty in Europe by sending a small force to the aid of Gustavus Adolphus. But this aid was not given in an open and manly way, or for the assertion of a great principle. It was pretended that the force was raised in Scotland as a private undertaking of the marquis of Hamilton. It was ill equipped; insufficiently provided with provisions; and "mouldered away in a short time," without rendering any service to the Protestant cause in Germany.* In truth there was no real affection for the Protestant cause. The majority of the foreign Protestants were regarded by the government, now closely allied with the dominant party in the church, with dislike and distrust. The doctrines of Geneva had become more offensive than the doctrines of Rome. In England the religious principles of the puritans were identified with a sturdy assertion of civil rights, whilst the arbitrary tendencies of the king were encouraged by many of the higher clergy who held the tenets from which the puritans wholly dissented. To the great body of the people the innovations in religion, as they were termed, not unnaturally seemed an approach to Romanism. To the king and the prelates the resistance to these innovations seemed a dangerous opposition to the courtly doctrine that to disobey any of the commands of sovereigns was a heinous sin. The parliament impeached the preachers who maintained in their printed sermons that kings had an absolute power over the property of their subjects. Charles gave them preferments. The foreign Protestants were fighting, for the most part, for civil as well as religious liberty; and thus they found no real support among the rulers of England. Gustavus Adolphus went his own way to uphold the Reformation. Charles entered into a secret treaty with Spain for the subjugation of the Seven United Provinces; which, after better consideration, he declined to ratify.
Absolute government-Condition of England from 1629 to 1637-Contrasts of France and England-Imprisoned Members-Sir John Eliot-His death in prison-WentworthLord President of the North-Lord Deputy of Ireland-His principles of governmentPrynne's Histrio-Mastix-His punishment-Masques and Plays-Character of the Drama -Book of Sports-Thorough, in Church and State-Monopolies-Proclamations against building in London-Other arbitrary Proclamations-First project of Ship-Money-The writ of Ship-Money extended-The Judges sanction the writs-John Hampden-Solemn trial of the validity of the writ of Ship-Money-Hampden adjudged to pay-Prynne, Burton, and Bastwick-The despotism of Charles not effective of any public improvements-His alleged patronage of the Fine Arts.-Note, on the portraits of Charles.
LORD CLARENDON, in a passage that has been more than once quoted to show how happy a people may be under an absolute government, says, after the dissolution of Charles's third parliament, "there quickly followed so excellent a composure through the whole kingdom, that the like peace, and plenty, and universal tranquillity for ten years was never enjoyed by any
CONDITION OF ENGLAND.
The great historian, with something like impartiality, then proceeds to detail the exactions and abuses of these ten years. The imposition of duties which the parliament refused to grant; vast sums extorted from "all persons of reasonable condition upon the law of knighthood "—that is fines for refusing knighthood; monopolies which had been abolished renewed; new projects of the same sort, many scandalous, all very grievous," set on foot; the old forest-laws revived, under which great fines were imposed; the writ of ship-money framed, "for an everlasting supply on all occasions; jurisdictions of the council-table and the star-chamber enlarged to a vast extent, "and being the same persons in several rooms, grew both courts of law to determine right, and courts of revenue to bring money into the treasury;" proclamations enjoining what was not enjoined by law, and prohibiting that which was not prohibited, "so that any disrespect to any acts of state or to the persons of statesmen, was in no time more penal; lastly, the abuse of justice at its fountain-head in the enforcement of arbitrary acts of power by the corruption of the judges. This is the catalogue of grievances presented by the eulogist of king Charles ;—a strange commentary upon his representation of "the excellent composure through the whole kingdom" during these years of unmitigated despotism. There is, however, a far more unscrupulous defender of arbitrary power than Clarendon. It required something beyond common effrontery in Hume, after he had noticed the oppressive levies of money, the monopolies, the heavy fines and brutal punishments of the star-chamber, the iniquities of the courts of law, to write thus: "The grievances under which the English laboured, when considered in themselves without regard to the constitution, scarcely deserve the name; nor were they either burdensome on the people's properties, or any way shocking to the natural humanity of mankind."* Had this been true instead of being distinctly opposed to truth, it would have been perfectly impossible for any amount of prosperity amongst the people-which prosperity really depended upon their own industrious energies-to have made "the so excellent a composure a real symptom that they had agreed to renounce "those foundations of right by which men valued their security"+-to accept slavery in the place of freedom. Wisely has it been said, "in the long run freedom ever brings, to those who know how to keep it, ease, comfort, and often wealth; but there are times in which it disturbs for a season the possession of these blessings; there are other times when despotism alone can confer the ephemeral enjoyment of them. The men who prize freedom only for such things as these, are not men who ever long preserved it." The men who lived in England in that fourth decade of the seventeenth century were not seduced from their allegiance to freedom by the vaunted " peace and plenty" of arbitrary power. Nor did their subsequent awful manifestation of their love of freedom suddenly arise out of their impatience of evil government. "They were native and to the manner born." They did not prize freedom solely because, having from very early times enjoyed a larger share of it than other nations, they had found in its enjoyment a larger share than other nations of material blessings. They clung to freedom-to borrow
*History, chap. liii.
+ Clarendon. De Tocqueville, "Society in France," p. 308.
CONTRASTS OF FRANCE AND ENGLAND.
the words of M. de Tocqueville-for "its native charms independent of its gifts the pleasure of speaking, acting, and breathing without restraint, under no master but God and the Law."
In briefly presenting the few striking incidents that vary the monotonous prospect over the dead level of ten years, we shall endeavour to exhibit them in connection with some of the general aspects of society.
There has been a battle between the crown and the parliament, and the crown keeps the field. There is not the slightest indication of any other collective resistance. The camp of the people is broken up, and there will be no irregular warfare. The timid amongst the puritans are in despair. The day of the dissolution, with them, "was the most gloomy, sad, and dismal day for England that happened in five hundred years last past."* A great branch had indeed been lopped off the tree of liberty; but there stood the old gnarled trunk, and "the splitting wind" could not bend it or disturb its roots. "Be a king," said Henrietta Maria to Charles, "like the king of France." There were some barriers to be removed, besides that of a parliament, before that wish could be accomplished. France and England were essentially unlike in the whole construction of the machine of government. Let us point out some of these differences, without entering upon minute comparisons.
The absolute monarchy of France was upheld by a most numerous aristocracy; standing apart from the people, and despising the people in their pride of birth; exempt from taxation; possessing many exclusive privileges ; abhorring any industrious occupation; intermarrying with their own caste alone. The limited monarchy of England had strengthened its power by the destruction of the military organisation of the feudal chiefs; but the aristocracy, being absorbed amongst the people, became identified with the interests of the people; formed family alliances with the rich middle classes; were united with them in various administrative functions; above all, were equally taxed with the very humblest yeomen and burghers. The illegal imposts of Charles were not exclusively levied upon the tradesman. They touched the nobleman and the squire; and some of the heaviest "lighted most upon persons of quality and honour, who thought themselves above ordinary oppressions."+ The union of classes in England for great public objects is not a thing of yesterday. It was never more complete than in the period which we are now regarding. Richard Chambers, the London merchant, who refused to pay the duties illegally levied upon a bale of silk, and was imprisoned and fined £2000 for his insolence in comparing the injustice to the practices of the government of Turkey; and John Hampden, the Buckinghamshire squire, who roused the heart of England to a quicker pulsation, in his contest with the whole power of the crown upon a question of twenty shillings levied upon his lands at Stoke Mandeville,-these were each fighting the same battle, with the most perfect accord, and with equal sympathy amongst all ranks. "If the English had, from the period of the Middle Ages, altogether lost, like the French, political freedom and all those local franchises which cannot long exist without it, it is highly probable that each of the different classes of which the English aristocracy is composed would
* D'Ewes, vol. i. p. 402.
CONTRASTS OF FRANCE AND ENGLAND.
[1629-1637. have seceded from the rest, as was the case in France, and more or less all over the continent, and that all those classes would have separated themselves from the people. But freedom compelled them always to remain within reach of each other, so as to combine their strength in time of need."*
The "local franchises" dependent upon "general political freedom" constituted another powerful barrier against the disposition of an English king to govern like a king of France. The English had been trained, from the very earliest times, to manage their own affairs. The principle of local Association was the familiar condition of an Englishman's existence. Parochial vestries, trade guilds, municipal corporations, were the life of the whole social body. Though parliaments had been suspended by Charles, these remained in their original vigour, and perhaps in a more intense activity. This existence of administrative bodies throughout the kingdom rendered it impossible for any amount of absolute power to effect more than a very partial suppression of liberty of speech and action. The proceedings of the guilds and corporations were conducted with the strict order of the highest deliberative assemblies. The entire machinery of representative administration called them together and regulated their debates. There is no parliament at Westminster from 1629 to 1640; but there is a parliament in Guildhall. There, is the elective principle in full force. There, the Lower House discusses every matter of its franchises with perfect freedom. There, is an Upper House, to which the Lower House presents its Bills, and with their mutual concurrence they pass into Acts. Could this vital representation of two or three hundred thousand inhabitants of London be in daily use, and the higher representation of all England be ultimately put down by the will of the king? To be as a king of France, Charles must have swept away every local franchise, and have governed by one wideembracing centralisation. That was simply impossible in England.
But if there was one cause more than another why, at that period, a king of England could not govern like a king of France, it was the state of religious feeling amongst a rapidly increasing number of the most influential portion of the community. It was not the outwardly devout formalism, veiling indifference, which prevailed amongst Roman Catholic populations, who had rarely been stirred to serious thought upon the great doctrinal questions that had agitated Europe for more than a century. It was an active principle, that was constantly seeking to grapple with lukewarmness in the assertion of what it held to be true, as much as with the positive tenets which it pronounced to be false. The earlier professors of the doctrine and discipline called puritan had been discountenanced by Elizabeth. But they clung with unquestionable loyalty to her government, because the hatred of popery was as much the passion of the people as it was the policy of the crown. The puritans of the time of James suffered in their worldly interests and their rights of conscience. They were visited with penalties as nonconformists, and they were hunted as schismatics if they formed independent congregations. But they were as yet without the character of a political party. When Charles had been four years on the throne, the religious dissatisfaction with church-government became essentially political. The
* De Tocqueville, p. 178.