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THE DYNASTY OF THE STUARTS (1603-1688) WAS MARKED BY
THE LONG STRUGGLE OF THE PEOPLE AGAINST ARBITRARY POWER, AND FOR THE LEGITIMATE INFLUENCE OF PARLIAMENT. DURING THIS STRUGGLE THE GOVERNMENT OF ENGLAND ASSUMED FOR A TIME, UNDER THE PROTECTORSHIP OF OLIVER CROMWELL, THE FORM OF A REPUBLIC; RETURNED SUBSEQUENTLY TO MONARCHY THROUGH THE RESTORATION OF CHARLES II.; SANK AGAIN INTO DESPOTISM UNDER JAMES II., AND WAS DELIVERED AND FINALLY ESTABLISHED ON A TRUE CONSTITUTIONAL AND PARLIAMENTARY BASIS BY WILLIAM III. OF ORANGE.
[During this Epoch flourished Newton, Locke, Milton, Bunyan, Dryden.]
1. James I. (VI. of Scotland.)
A. D. 1603-1625.
JAMES'S DESPOTIC TENDENCY DISPUTE WITH THE COMMONS -GUNPOWDER PLOT SUPPORT SENT TO THE ELECTOR-PALATINE TO ESTABLISH HIM AS A PROTESTANT SOVEREIGN ON THE THRONE OF BOHEMIA-NEGOTIATIONS WITH SPAIN-DETERMINATION OF PARLIAMENT TO MAINTAIN THEIR LIBERTIESPROGRESS OF THE NATION.
the great-grandson of Margaret, elder daughter of Henry VII. The
people showed themselves well-disposed to give their new king a hearty reception, but he discouraged public demonstrations. As if, however, to remove the ill effect of his reserve, the king made a profuse distribution of titles, which became so common that they lost much of their value in people's eyes. He retained the late queen's ministers, of whom Cecil, created Earl of Salisbury, remained the chief. The discovery of a plot caused the arrest of the famous Sir Walter Raleigh, along with Lords Grey and Cobham, Sir Griffin Markham, Mr. Broke, Lord Cobham's brother, and two priests. The true nature of this plot has never been clearly revealed, but there is reason for believing that one of its objects was to raise to the throne Arabella Stuart, descended, like the king, from Henry VII.'s elder daughter Margaret. The two priests and Broke were executed (November 29, December 5), Cobham, Grey, and Markham, were pardoned, and Raleigh, without remission of the sentence of death, was kept in prison. Poor Arabella, privately married to her cousin Seymour, to whom she had been attached from her childhood, was, with her husband, in consequence of political jealousy, confined to the Tower, where she lost her reason, and died of a broken heart.
It was not till the following year, 19th March 1604, that the king was enabled to open Parliament, owing to the plague, of which 30,000 persons had died within twelve months.
In a dispute with Parliament on a question of privilege, James said, "We command, as an absolute king, a conference with the judges." This is the key-note to the Stuart policy in their relation to the Commons-a policy which was so pregnant with disaster to the kingdom. Chief-Justice Coke's firmness in maintaining that the king must act under the law, and that without Parliament he could create no new offence nor change the law of the land, deserves our gratitude. Parliament, aware of the king's absolute notions of the regal power, now began to exhibit a jealous sense of its own privileges, and at the conclusion of its first meeting under James, it gave in a spirited defence of its privileges. Some good laws were passed for freeing trade
from the restriction of monopolies, some of these being abrogated by the king himself. His Majesty desired to effect the union of the two kingdoms, but the Commons would go no further than to appoint commissioners to meet Scotch commissioners to deliberate on the subject. They showed no less jealousy with regard to a supply of money of which the king stood in need, and were prorogued with some degree of dissatisfaction.
James, who was a lover of tranquillity, concluded a treaty of peace with Spain, 18th August 1604. A royal proclamation enacted against the Puritans, as those were called who were desirous of sweeping away the ceremonials and of simplifying the liturgy of the Church, resulted in driving a large number of the clergy from their livings, and causing considerable disaffection.
During the spring and summer of this year (1604), was hatched that abominable conspiracy called the Gunpowder Plot. The chief contriver was a Roman Catholic gentleman of good family, who, brooding over the persecutions to which those of his religion were subjected, worked himself into the belief that he should be justified in destroying at one blow the king, ministers, and both Houses of Parliament, when all were assembled together at the opening of the session. The first convert he made to this atrocious design was Percy, a descendant of the illustrious house of Northumberland. They communicated their intention to a few others, amongst whom was Thomas Winter, whom they sent to Holland in search of Guy Fawkes, an officer in the Spanish service, of known resolution and bigotry. If there were any scruples of conscience among the conspirators they were quieted by two Jesuits, one of whom-Garnet--was the superior of that order in England. It happened that a coal vault under the House of Parliament was to be let, which Percy hired, and there lodged thirtysix barrels of powder, concealed under fagots of wood. The dreadful secret, though communicated to twenty persons, had been kept a year and a half; and the day of meeting, when the royal family with both Houses would be involved in destruction, was anticipated with confidence of success. Happily, scruples of
conscience suggested to one of the conspirators to try to save Lord Monteagle, to whom he was friendly, and he wrote that nobleman an anonymous letter advising him not to attend the opening of Parliament. This letter was laid before the king, who, with singular penetration, divined the sense hid under an ambiguous sentence. The vaults were searched the day before the meeting, and Guy Fawkes arrested, in whose pocket was found everything necessary for setting fire to the train. He, with the principal conspirators, died by the hands of the executioner. The Jesuit Garnet, after equivocations which destroyed all reliance upon his word, suffered like the rest. Such was the Gunpowder Plot of the 5th November 1605. The king made a moderate speech to Parliament, telling them not to confound innocent Roman Catholics with the guilty few, and adjourned the House till the 22d January. When they re-assembled, they showed, in all respects-except the proposal for a union with Scotland- —an obliging disposition towards James, who had now assumed the title of King of Great Britain. As Ireland had been long in an unsettled state, James carried into effect a plan for colonizing Ulster with English and Scotch settlers, and the successful way in which it was achieved speaks well for his capacity, for that province has ever remained a model of thriving industry.
On the 6th November 1612, in his eighteenth year, died Henry prince of Wales, a youth of great promise; and soon after (14th February 1613), the Princess Elizabeth married Frederick, electorpalatine, an event worthy of particular note, as it led to most important consequences.1
The death of Sir Thomas Overbury, 16th September 1613, by poison in the Tower, caused the king much distress, because the crime was attributed to a person on whom he had lavished the most extraordinary favours. This was Robert Carr, a Scotch youth who had a few years before attracted the king's attention at a tilting match. The young man was thrown from his horse and had his leg broken. James's compassion was excited, and
Through this marriage a hereditary title to the throne descended to Queen Victoria.
A.D. 1619.] EXECUTION OF SIR WALTER RALEIGH.
after a short acquaintanceship he became so attached to him that he created him Viscount Rochester, and gave him a seat in the Privy Council. By the prudent guidance of his friend Sir Thomas Overbury, he avoided foolish steps, until he formed an attachment for Lady Essex. The latter wished to obtain a divorce from her husband, the Earl of Essex, that she might marry Rochester. Overbury opposed this project, and upon false pretexts was thrown into the Tower, where he was poisoned. Rochester, who had been created Earl of Somerset after his marriage with Lady Essex, denied participation in this foul murder, but was pronounced guilty, and escaped punishment only through the too great leniency of the king. Somerset and his wife soon formed the strongest mutual aversion, and passed the rest of their days in sullen hatred.
It was in 1614 that the title of baronet was created, as a means of raising money by the fee which had to be paid for the new title.
Before the above events occurred, the king had fixed his eye on a new favourite, destined to be the evil genius of himself and his son Charles. This was George Villiers, a handsome, accomplished youth of good family, whom in a few years he created successively Viscount, Earl, Marquis, and Duke of Buckingham.
In the summer of 1619, the king paid a visit to Scotland with the hope of inducing the Scotch to admit certain religious ceremonials adopted by the Church of England, but his efforts only served to excite irritation.
On the 29th October was brought to the block the famous Sir Walter Raleigh. He had lain several years under sentence of death, during which he wrote his History of the World, beside pursuing various branches of study. At length he petitioned the king to allow him to go in search of a gold mine which he had formerly discovered, or believed to exist, at Guiana, when he took possession of that country in the name of Queen Elizabeth. His prayer was granted on condition that he should not, on peril of his life, attack the Spanish settlements in that quarter. He