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long been extended to the king's servants attending on his council, the commons claimed exemption for their members from all criminal process, except in charges of treason, felony, and breach of the peace; but this they were unable to obtain till the following century. The most essential, however, of all the privileges of the commons was 'liberty of speech,' which was claimed by the speaker at the opening of every session, and secured the members from being called in question for anything debated or spoken within the walls of parliament, except by the house itself. This right once acquired was seldom infringed, even by the most arbitrary princes; the only eminent examples on record for this period being the cases of Haxey in the reign of Richard II. and of Thomas Young in that of Henry VI. Even when the country was on the verge of civil war, and justice was confounded by the fury of contending factions, the sanctity of parliamentary privilege was maintained. In the case of Thorpe, when applied to by the king, the judges refused to interpose their authority, saying that "they had no power to interfere with the privileges of parliament, which was so high and mighty a court that it might make law, and that what was law it might make no law; and further, that the knowledge and determination of privilege belonged to the lords of the parliament and not to the justices;" so that the supremacy of the parliament may be said to have been fully acknowledged even in the fifteenth century; but the use they made of their power was not always so just or so moderate as might have been expected from the gravity and responsibility of the highest court in the kingdom: frequently their decisions were guided by passion or party feeling, and so that it did not infringe their own privileges, they scrupled not to condemn the innocent to gratify the royal pleasure. The conduct, however, of parliament during the fifteenth century was not to be compared with the degrading servility of their successors under the house of Tudor. "In the former period," says Mr. Macaulay, "the parliament had been an instrument of resistance, the guardian of private rights; under the Tudors, it became an instrument of government and general policy." This, however, must be understood only with regard to the privileged classes; both under the Plantagenets and the Tudors the commons were equally callous of the interests of the inferior people. After the revolt of the peasantry in the reign of Richard II., when the charters of manumission were submitted to parliament, the commons refused to assent to them, saying "that they had rather all perish in one day than accede to them;"* nor was this a single instance: in 1392, they petitioned the king that the villeins might not be permitted
*Rot. Parl. iii. 100.
PREROGATIVES OF THE CROWN.
to send their children to school, nor to advance them by the church; that those who had been brought up to agriculture, to the age of twelve years, should not learn any trade or profession by which they might become independent of their masters, or be suffered to escape to the towns, where they were protected by the citizens, all which was contrary to the liberty of the commons: but the king wisely disregarded these complaints, and even lent his favour to the artisans and industrious classes.
In direct opposition to the privileges of parliament were the prerogatives of the crown, and although these sources of arbitrary power had in a great measure been restrained, yet purveyance and pardons still continued to interfere with the liberty of the subject, and were the frequent sources of abuse. Purveyance, which had originally been the privilege of the royal officers to purchase provisions or secure accommodation for the king's household in preference to any other competitor at a remunerative price, had been extended into the power of seizing provisions without the consent of the owner, and taking up his carts and horses not only for the king's service, but to build churches, repair castles, with other works of a public nature, whenever it was the king's pleasure to issue his warrant: if the king wished to build a new palace or lay the foundations of a new harbour, he issued his warrant to the sheriffs of the adjoining shires to levy a certain number of labourers and artizans to serve at the king's rate of wages so long as it might please him; and if any refused, he was punished by fine and imprisonment. Another grievance was that of pardons, which, if possible, was of a still more serious character, since it contaminated the very fountains of justice: instead of the royal pardon being an act of mercy, it was frequently sold or granted to interest, and this before the committal of the offence, so that when the criminal was brought to justice, the royal pardon was produced, which shielded him from further molestation, to the great detriment of civil order. The courts of wards and liveries were likewise oppressive remnants of the feudal system: it was bad enough for the heir to be deprived of the interest of his property while under age, but this right of seignory was extended to the imposition of fines on his coming of age, and his marriage was saleable by the king, so that the multifarious extortions of the officers of the wards rendered private property in a great measure insecure amongst other abuses complained of on the rolls of parliament, the seizing of lands for felony which were not held of the crown, forfeiting estates secured by the statute of entail, and escheating the property of minors, were of frequent occurrence. Notwithstanding these abuses the progress of the nation had been won
*Rot. Parl. 15 Rich. II. vol. iii. 294, 296.
derful since the accession of Richard II.; and there was probably no country where law was more respected or better administered than in England. A contemporary historian, sir John Fortescue, who had every opportunity of forming a correct judgment, thus favourably speaks of England in comparison with the other countries of Europe: "There is scarcely a small village in the former country (England) in which you may not find a knight, an esquire, or some substantial householder, possessed of considerable estate; besides others who are called housekeepers, and many yeomen, of estates sufficient to form a substantial jury." To this superior condition of middle classes in England the historian attributes in a great measure the purity of justice, and the possibility of entrusting the execution of the laws to a jury, which forms so conspicuous an element in the English constitution.
THE HOUSE OF TUDOR.
HENRY VII. A. D. 1485-1509.
Advantages enjoyed by Henry VII.-General prosperity-Trade and commerce Severity towards the nobles - Conversion of villenage into free tenure-Imposture of Lambert Simnel-Perkin Warbeck personates the duke of York-Doubt as to Warbeck's true character-Henry VII.'s avarice Star Chamber-Its oppressive jurisdiction-Opposition to the encroachments of the church-Revival of literature-Art of printing-Its effect on the English language.
No prince had ever before ascended the throne under more auspicious circumstances than Henry VII. He united in his own person the title of the two great families of York and Lancaster. The country was weary of war, the strength of the nobles was exhausted, and the commons had not yet learned to assert their rights without the guidance of those whom they had been accustomed to regard as their natural leaders. Provisions were plentiful and wages high, and, as a consequence, the spirit of contentment generally diffused. Under these circumstances Henry VII. might easily have made himself an absolute monarch; but he was wisely contented with moderate power, and although the greater regularity of government could not but increase the prerogatives of the crown, the liberties of the people were scrupulously observed. Parliaments were frequent, and the laws which they enacted were exceedingly wise and salutary: commerce, which had languished during the civil wars, received a new stimulus from the discoveries of the Spaniards in the west and the Portuguese in the east; while the privileges of the English merchants were better defined by the enactment of the Navigation Laws, which secured to them the trade in foreign wines, and augmented the number of English vessels trading to foreign ports: in fact, the whole system of commerce was placed on a better footing: wool was no longer exported in a raw state to Flanders, but was manufactured into cloth or flannel; and every other branch of industry met with similar encouragement. It may at first sight appear strange that these restrictions on commerce should be enumerated amongst the causes which contributed to the development of national industry,
but in the infancy of trade and commerce, protection and even monopolies have often proved advantageous in enabling a new branch of industry to compete successfully with its foreign rivals, who have already acquired the advantages of long establishment and extensive experience: even under the patronage of a royal charter few of those who have been so bold or patriotic as to introduce a new craft have escaped the ruin of their fortunes or even of their good name. The history of paper-mills in the reign of Elizabeth, and of coal gas in our own day, are good illustrations of the difficulties which beset the footsteps of industry. The greatest peculiarity of Henry's government was the severity with which he restrained the interference of the nobles, and the economy of his household. Instead of being in continual want of supplies, as all his predecessors had been since the reign of Henry II., he had money for all the emergencies of government, and he left in his coffers at the time of his death the enormous sum of £2,000,000 sterling, without extortionately oppressing his subjects. In fact, the material wealth of England had vastly increased; instead of the bare necessaries of life being scarcely procurable by the working artisan, the weekly wages of a carpenter at the end of the fifteenth century were sufficient to purchase either a lamb, four geese, half a calf, a gallon of wine, or a bushel of wheat. In consequence of this unprecedented prosperity, conversion of villenage into free tenantry advanced rapidly during the whole of this and the following reign, so that under Mary and Elizabeth but few instances occur of predial bondage; and in the 15th of James I. the claim which was made for the recovery of feudal services was disallowed,-showing that villerage was then considered to have entirely ceased. With the exception of two singular incidents the reign of Henry VII. was one of uninterrupted quiet. The earl of Warwick, son of the duke of Clarence, being the nearest male heir of the house of York, was regarded with jealousy by his uncle Richard, who kept him close prisoner in the Tower, and when Henry VII. came to the throne a cautious policy prevented him from restoring the young prince to liberty, so that Edward Plantagenet, earl of Warwick, had passed the greater part of his life in confinement, and was unknown both to the nobles and the people. Taking advantage of this general ignorance of Warwick's personal appearance, the duchess of Burgundy, Henry's implacable enemy, persuaded a priest named Richard Simon to select a youth who bore some resemblance to the long-lost prince, and to teach him how to counterfeit his appearance and character. Simon having made choice of Lambert Simnel, a baker's son, and instructed him in all the facts requisite to support the imposture, sailed with his pupil into Ireland and