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reasoners as one of the most early and most infallible CHAP. symptoms of a regular established liberty.
The king having thus, with so rash and indiscreet a hand, torn off that sacred veil which had hitherto covered the English constitution, and which threw an obscurity upon it so advantageous to royal prerogative, every man began to indulge himself in political reasonings and inquiries; and the same factions which commenced in Parliament were propagated throughout the nation. In vain did James, by reiterated proclamations, forbid the discoursing of state affairs. Such proclamations, if they had any effect, served rather to inflame the curiosity of the public; and, in every company or society, the late transactions became the subject of argument and debate.
All history, said the partisans of the court, as well as the history of England, justify the king's position with regard to the origin of popular privileges; and every reasonable man must allow, that as monarchy is the most simple form of government, it must first have occurred to rude and uninstructed mankind. The other complicated and artificial additions were the successive invention of sovereigns and legislators; or, if they were obtruded on the prince by seditious subjects, their origin must appear, on that very account, still more precarious and unfavourable. In England, the authority of the king, in all the exterior forms of government, and in the common style of law, appears totally absolute and sovereign; nor does the real spirit of the constitution, as it has ever discovered itself in practice, fall much short of these appearances. The Parliament is created by his will; by his will it is dissolved. It is his will alone, though at the desire of both Houses, which gives authority to laws. To all foreign nations, the majesty of the monarch seems to merit sole attention and regard; and no subject, who has exposed himself to royal indignation, can hope to live with safety in the kingdom; nor can he even leave it, according to law, without the consent of his master. If a magistrate, environed with such power and splendour, should consider his authority as sacred, and regard him
t Franklyn, p. 56. Rushworth, vol. i. p. 21. 36. 55. tion of his predecessors, gave rules to preachers. was at that time much more dangerous than the press. and still fewer were in the practice of reading.
The king also, in imita-
CHAP. self as the anointed of Heaven, his pretensions may bear a very favourable construction: or, allowing them to be 1621. merely pious frauds, we need not be surprised, that the same stratagem which was practised by Minos, Numa, and the most celebrated legislators of antiquity, should now, in these restless and inquisitive times, be employed by the King of England. Subjects are not raised above that quality, though assembled in Parliament. The same humble respect and deference is still due to their prince. Though he indulges them in the privilege of laying before him their domestic grievances, with which they are supposed to be best acquainted, this warrants not their bold intrusion into every province of government. And, to all judicious examiners, it must appear, "That the lines of duty are as much transgressed by a more independent and less respectful exercise of acknowledged powers, as by the usurpation of such as are new and unusual."
The lovers of liberty, throughout the nation, reasoned after a different manner. It is in vain, said they, that the king traces up the English government to its first origin, in order to represent the privileges of Parliament as dependent and precarious; prescription, and the practice of so many ages, must, long ere this time, have given a sanction to these assemblies, even though they had been derived from an origin no more dignified than that which he assigns them. If the written records of the English nation, as asserted, represent Parliaments to have arisen from the consent of monarchs, the principles of human nature, when we trace government a step higher, must show us that monarchs themselves owe all their authority to the voluntary submission of the people. But, in fact, no age can be shown, when the English government was altogether an unmixed monarchy; and if the privileges of the nation have, at any period, been overpowered by violent irruptions of foreign force or domestic usurpation, the generous spirit of the people has ever seized the first opportunity of re-establishing the ancient government and constitution. Though in the style of the laws, and in the usual forms of administration, royal authority may be represented as sacred and supreme, whatever is essential to the exercise of sovereign and
legislative power must still be regarded as equally divine CHAP. and inviolable: or, if any distinction be made in this respect, the preference is surely due to those national councils, by whose interposition the exorbitances of tyrannical power are restrained, and that sacred liberty is preserved, which heroic spirits, in all ages, have deemed more precious than life itself. Nor is it sufficient to say, that the mild and equitable administration of James affords little occasion, or no occasion of complaint. How moderate soever the exercise of his prerogative, how exact soever his observance of the laws and constitution, "If he founds his authority on arbitrary and dangerous principles, it is requisite to watch him with the same care, and to oppose him with the same vigour, as if he had indulged himself in all the excesses of cruelty and tyranny."
Amidst these disputes, the wise and moderate in the nation endeavoured to preserve, as much as possible, an equitable neutrality between the opposite parties; and the more they reflected on the course of public affairs, the greater difficulty they found in fixing just sentiments with regard to them. On the one hand, they regarded the very rise of parties as a happy prognostic of the establishment of liberty; nor could they ever expect to enjoy, in a mixed government, so valuable a blessing without suffering that inconvenience, which, in such governments, has ever attended it. But when they considered, on the other hand, the necessary aims and pursuits of both parties, they were struck with apprehension of the consequences, and could discover no feasible plan of accommodation between them. From long practice, the crown was now possessed of so exorbitant a prerogative, that it was not sufficient for liberty to remain on the defensive, or endeavour to secure the little ground which was left her; it was become necessary to carry on an offensive war, and to circumscribe, within more narrow as well as more exact bounds, the authority of the sovereign. Upon such provocation, it could not but happen, that the prince, however just and moderate, would endeavour to repress his opponents; and, as he stood upon the very brink of arbitrary power, it was to be feared that he would, hastily and unknowingly, pass those limits which were not precisely marked by the con
CHAP. stitution. The turbulent government of England, ever XLVIII. fluctuating between privilege and prerogative, would 1621. afford a variety of precedents, which might be pleaded on both sides. In such delicate questions, the people must be divided: the arms of the state were still in their hands: a civil war must ensue; a civil war where no party or both parties would justly bear the blame, and where the good and virtuous would scarcely know what vows to form were it not that liberty, so necessary to the perfection of human society, would be sufficient to bias their affections towards the side of its defenders.
NEGOTIATIONS WITH REGARD TO THE MARRIAGE AND THE PALAT:NATE.-CHARACTER
To wrest the Palatinate from the hands of the emperor CHAP. and the Duke of Bavaria must always have been regar as a difficult task for the power of England, conducted by so unwarlike a prince as James: it was plainly impossible, while the breach subsisted between him and the Commons. The king's negotiations, therefore, had Negotiathey been managed with ever so great dexterity, must regard to now carry less weight with them; and it was easy to the marriage and elude all his applications. When Lord Digby, his am- the Palabassador to the emperor, had desired a cessation of hos- tinate. tilities, he was referred to the Duke of Bavaria, who commanded the Austrian armies. The Duke of Bavaria told him, that it was entirely superfluous to form any treaty for that purpose. Hostilities are already ceased, said he; and I doubt not but I shall be able to prevent their revival by keeping firm possession of the Palatinate, till a final agreement shall be concluded between the contending parties". Notwithstanding this insult, James endeavoured to resume with the emperor a treaty of accommodation; and he opened the negotiations at Brussels, under the mediation of Archduke Albert; and after his death, which happened about this time, under that of the infanta: when the conferences were entered upon, it was found that the powers of these princes to determine in the controversy were not sufficient or satisfactory. Schwartzenbourg, the imperial minister, was expected at London, and it was hoped that he would bring more ample authority: his commission referred entirely to the negotiation at Brussels. It was not difficult for the king to perceive, that his applications were a Franklyn, p. 57. Rushworth, vol. i. p. 38.