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discussion of the principles of the constitution in point of personal liberty; and concluded by showing, that 'no virtuous operations of state could be affected by leaving to subjects that jewel, which distinguishes not only freemen from slaves, but the living from the dead,'
In consequence of his spirited conduct, which had deterred the Judges indeed from entering the abovementioned general judgement, the House resolved, that 6 some new law should be enacted for the better securing of the rights and privileges of the people.' Previously, however, to bringing in a bill for this purpose, it was thought proper to draw up a declaration of those rights and privileges, and to present it to the King, under the denomination of THE PETITION OF RIGHT,' praying among other particulars,
1. That no loan or tax might be levied, but by consent of parliament;
2. That no man might be imprisoned, but by legal process;
3. That soldiers might not be quartered on people against their wills; and
4. That no commissions might be granted for executing martial law.
Sir Edward had a principal hand in framing this celebrated Petition, and in advising the Commons not to trust any longer to the King's evasive replies. In the course of the various debates upon the subject, he made the following manly remarks: "Was it ever known, that general words were a sufficient satisfaction for particular grievances? Was ever a verbal declaration of the King (esteemed to be) the word of the Sovereign? When grievances are complained of, the parliament is to re
dress them. Did ever the parliament rely on messages? They have ever put up petitions of their grievances and the King has ever answered them. The King's message is very gracious; but what is the law of the realm? That is the question. I put no diffidence in his Majesty, but the King must speak by record, and in particulars. Did you ever know the King's message come into a bill of subsidies? All succeeding Kings will say, Ye must trust me, as ye did my predecessor, and ye must have the same confidence in my messages.' But messages of love never come into a parliament. Let us put up A PETITION OF RIGHT: not that I distrust the King; but that I cannot give trust, but in a parliamentary
This Petition the King was extremely unwilling to pass into a law. The Lords sent down propositions to the Commons, in which the prerogative was preserved, and the ministry were privileged to oppress the subject, under pretence of reasons of state. Sir Thomas Coventry, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, assured them that his Majesty had commanded him to let them know, that he held the statute of Magna Charta, and the other six statutes which had been insisted on, to be in full force, and that he would maintain all his subjects in the just freedom of their persons and safety of their estates; that he would govern them according to the laws and statutes of the realm; and that they should find as much security in his Majesty's royal word and promise, as in the strength of any law they could make; so that, hereafter, they should have no cause to complain. But this did not suffice: the Commons inflexibly adhered to their resolution of having a public remedy,
as there had been a public grievance; upon which his Majesty not very graciously replied, that he was content a bill should be drawn for a confirmation of Magna Charta and the other six statutes, if they chose that as the best way, but so as it might be without additions, paraphrases, or explanations.' This bill, however, still met with delays; and the Commons were again urged by the Secretary to rely on the royal word. The King, likewise, addressed a letter to the House of Peers, in which he declared, 'that without the overthrow of the sovereignty, he could not suffer the power of commitment without showing cause to be impeached;' upon which, the Lords expressed a wish to amend the bill, by adding a saving clause with respect to the sovereign power in extraordinary cases. But this was rejected; and the two Houses having in the end agreed, the PETITION OF RIGHT was read the first time on the second of June, 1628; and the King's answer was thus delivered to it: "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 his subjects may have no cause to complain of any wrong or oppressions, contrary to their just rights and liberties; to the preservation whereof he holds himself in conscience as well obliged, as of his prerogative." This answer did not satisfy the Commons, who saw through the evasion; and the King insisted, for some time, that he would give no other.' At last, upon the petition of both Houses, he replied in the usual form, Soit droit fait comme il est desiré, Let justice be done as it is desired;' and in this they, of course, acquiesced.
But, though Charles was thus constrained to give
the royal assent to this important measure, he took care to show how displeasing the conduct of parliament had been: and in order to intercept any farther molestation from that quarter, he informed the Lower House, through their Speaker, Sir John Finch, that he had fixed a day for putting an end to their session, and therefore required that they should not enter upon any new business, or lay any aspersions on the government or it's ministers. This produced a warm debate, in which Sir John Elliot with his accustomed freedom threw out some reflexions on the Duke of Buckingham; upon which the Speaker rose, and addressed him in these words: "There is a command upon me, that I must command you not to proceed." For some minutes a profound silence, the effect of astonishment, ensued: at length it was resolved, in a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration what was to be done upon this extraordinary occasion; and it was ordered that no member should quit the house, on pain of being sent to the Tower.' The Speaker however, desiring to withdraw, had leave so to do; and Mr. Whitby being in the chair, Sir Edward Coke for the last time stood forth an able champion in the cause of his country. The speech, which he then delivered, does honour to his memory:
"We have dealt with that duty and moderation that never was the like, rebus sic stantibus: after such a violation of the liberties of the subject, let us take this to heart, In the 30 Edward III., were they then in doubt in parliament to name men that misled the King? They accused John de Gaunt the King's son, and Lord Latimer, and Lord Nevil for misadvising the King; and they went to the Tower for it.
Now, when there is such a downfall of the state, shall we hold our tongues? How shall we answer
our duties to God and men? The 7 Henry IV. (Parl. Rot. No. 31, 32) and the 11 Henry IV. (No. 13) there the Council are complained of, and are removed from the King: they mewed up the King, and dissuaded him from the common good; and why are we now retired from that way we were in? Why may we not name those, that are the cause of all our evils? In the 4 Henry III., the 27 Edward III., and the 13 Richard II., the parliament moderated the King's prerogative; and nothing grows to abuse, but this House hath power to treat of it. What shall we do? Let us palliate no longer; if we do, God will not prosper us. I think the Duke of Buckingham is the cause of all our miseries; and till the King be informed thereof, we shall never go out with honour, or sit with honour here. That man is the grievance of all grievances: let us set down the causes of all our disasters, and all will reflect upon him.”
The Duke of Buckingham survived this debate only two months. But his untimely death made no alteration in the conduct of Charles; who being resolved to stake his crown in support of what he called 'his prerogative,' would endure no one in office except such as were tainted with the same principles: and in Richard Lord Weston, whom he created Earl of Portland and promoted to the office of Lord High Treasurer, Wentworth Earl of Strafford Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and Laud Archbishop of Canterbury, he found the agents he required. For the parliament meeting again in January 1629, and proceeding with increased earnestness upon their grievances