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and the queen's conduct in this particular, making C HA P. allowance for the prevailing prejudices of the times, could scarcely be accused of severity or imprudence. She established no inquisition into men's bosoms : She imposed no oath of supremacy, except on those who received trust or emolument from the public: And though the exercise of every religion but the established was prohibited by statute, the violation of this law, by saying mass, and receiving the sacrament in private houses, was, in many instances, connived at ;" while, on the other hand, the catholics, in the beginning of her reign, shewed little reluctance against going to church, or frequenting the ordinary duties of public worship. The pope, sensible that this practice would by degrees reconcile all his partisans to the reformed religion, hastened the publication of the bull, which excommunicated the queen, and freed her subjects from their oaths of allegiance; and great pains were taken by the emissaries of Rome, to render the breach between the two religions as wide as possible, and to make the frequenting of protestant churches appear highly criminal in the catholics. These practices, with the rebellion which ensued, increased the vigilance and severity of the government; but the Romanists, if their condition were compared with that of the Nonconformists in other countries, and with their own maxims where they domineered, could not justly complain of violence or persecution.
The queen appeared rather more anxious to keep a strict hand over the puritans; who, though their pretensions were not so immediately dangerous to her authority, seemed to be actuated by a more unreasonable obstinacy, and to retain claims, of which, both in civil and ecclesiastical matters, it was, as yet, difficult to discern the full scope and intention.
u Camden, p. 459. w Walsingham's Letter in Burnet, vol. ii. p. 418.
Cabala, p. 406.
CH A P.
Some secret attempts of that sect to establish a separate congregation and discipline had been carefully repressed in the beginning of this reign ;' and when any of the established clergy discovered a tendency to their principles, by omitting the legal habits or ceremonies, the queen had shewn a determined resolution to punish them by fines and deprivation ;' though her orders to that purpose had been frequently eluded, by the secret protection which these sectaries received from some of her most considerable courtiers.
But what chiefly tended to gain Elizabeth the hearts of her subjects, was, her frugality, which, though carried sometimes to an extreme, led her not to amass treasures, but only to prevent impositions upon her people, who were at that time very little accustomed to bear the burthens of government. By means of her rigid economy, she paid all the debts which she found on the crown, with their full interest; though some of these debts had been contracted even during the reign of her father.” Some loans, which she had exacted at the commencement of her reign, were repaid by her; a practice in that age somewhat unusual:* And she had established her credit on such a footing, that no sovereign in Europe could more readily command any sum, which the public exigencies might at any time require. During this peaceable and uniform government, England furnishes few materials for history; and except the small part which Elizabeth took in foreign transactions, there scarcely passed any occurrence which requires a particular detail.
The most memorable event in this period was a A parlia
session of parliament, held on the 8th of February 1576; where debates were started, which may ap
* Strype's Lise of Parker, p. 342. Ibid. Life of Grindal,
y Heylin, p. 165, 166. ? D'Ewes, p. 245. Camden, p. 416. a D'Ewes, p. 426. b Ibid. p. 245.
appear somewhat curious and singular. Peter Went-CHAP worth, a puritan, who had signalized himself in former parliaments by his free and undaunted spirit, 1579. opened this session with a premeditated harangue, which drew on him the indignation of the house, and gave great offence to the queen and the ministers. As it seems to contain a rude sketch of those principles of liberty which happily gained afterwards the ascendant in England, it may not be improper to give, in a few words, the substance of it. He premised, that the very name of liberty is sweet; but the thing itself is precious beyond the most inestimable treasure: And that it behoved them to be careful, lest, contenting themselves with the sweetness of the name, they forego the substance, and abandon what of all earthly possessions was of the highest value to the kingdom. He then proceeded to observe, that freedom of speech in that house, a privilege so useful both to sovereign and subject, had been formerly infringed in many essential articles, and was at present exposed to the most imminent danger: That it was usual, when any sub. ject of importance was handled, especially if it regarded religion, to surmise, that these topics were disagreeable to the queen, and that the farther proceeding in them would draw down her indignation upon their temerity: That Solomon had justly af, firmed the king's displeasure to be a messenger of death; and it was no wonder if men, even though urged by motives of conscience and duty, should be inclined to stop short, when they found themselves exposed to so severe a penalty: That, by the employing of this argument, the house was incapacitated from serving their country, and even from serving the queen herself; whose ears, besieged by pernicious flatterers, were thereby rendered inaccessible to the most salutary truths: That it was a mockery to call an assembly a parliament, yet deny it that privilege, which was so essential to its being, Vol. V.
CHA P. and without which it must degenerate into an abject
school of servility and dissimulation: That, as the 1579. parliament was the great guardian of the laws, they
ought to have liberty to discharge their trust, and to maintain that authority whence even kings themselves derive their being : That a king was constituted such by law, and though he was not dependent on man, yet was he subordinate to God and the law, and was obliged to make their prescriptions, not his own will, the rule of his conduct: That even his commission, as God's vicegerent, enforced, instead of loosening, this obligation; since he was thereby invested with authority to execute on earth the will of God, which is nothing but law and justice: That though these surmises of displeasing the queen by their proceedings had impeached, in a very essential point, all freedom of speech, a privilege granted them by a special law; yet was there a more express and more dangerous invasion made on their liberties, by frequent messages from the throne: That it had become a practice, when the house was entering on any question, either ecclesiastical or civil, to bring an order from the queen, inhibiting them absolutely from treating of such matters, and debarring them from all farther discussion of these momentous articles: That the prelates, emboldened by her royal protection, had assumed a decisive power in all questions of religion, and required that every one should implicitly submit his faith to their arbitrary determinations : That the love which he bore his sovereign forbade him to be silent under such abuses, or to sacrifice, on this important occasion, his duty to servile flattery and complaisance: And that as 'no earthly creature was exempt from fault, so neither was the queen herself; but, in imposing this servitude on her faithful commons, she had committed a great, and even dangerous, fault against herself and the whole commonwealth.
Іт C D'Ewes, p. 236, 237, &c.
It is easy to observe from this speech, that, in C H A P. this dawn of liberty, the parliamentary style was still crude and unformed; and that the
decorum 1579. of attacking ministers and counsellors, without interesting the honour of the crown, or mentioning the person of the sovereign, was not yet entirely established. The commons expressed great displeasure at this unusual licence: They sequestered Wentworth from the house, and committed him prisoner to the serjeant at arms. They even ordered him to be examined by a committee, consisting of all those members, who were also members of the privy.council; and a report to be next day made to the house. This committee met in the star-chamber, and, wearing the aspect of that arbitrary court, summoned Wentworth to appear before them and answer for his behaviour. But though the commons had discovered so little delicacy or precaution, in thus confounding their own authority with that of the star-chamber; Wentworth better understood the principles of liberty, and refused to give these counsellors any account of his conduct in parliament, till he were satisfied that they acted, not as members of the privy-council, but as a committee of the house." He justified his liberty of speech, by pleading the rigour and hardship of the queen's messages; and notwithstanding that the committee shewed him, by instances in other reigns, that the practice of sending such messages was not unprecedented, he would not agree to express any sorrow or repentance. The issue of the affair was, that, after a month's confinement, the queen sent to the commons, informing them, that, from her special grace and favour, she had restored him to his liberty, and to his place in the house. By this seeming lenity, she indirectly retained the power which she had assumed, of imprisoning the members, and obliging them to answer
before d D'Ewes, p. 241.
e Ibid. p. 244, 2