The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.I., Part D. - From Elizabeth to James I.
by David Hume
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v** See note NN, at the end of the volume. Monson, p. 300. Spaniards; and the queen equipped a fleet and levied an army in a fortnight to oppose them. Nothing gave foreigners a higher idea of the power of England than this sudden armament.

In the year 1575, all the militia in the kingdom were computed at a hundred and eighty-two thousand nine hundred and twenty-nine.[*] A distribution was made, in the year 1595, of a hundred and forty thousand men, besides those which Wales could supply.[**] These armies were formidable by their numbers; but their discipline and experience were not proportionate. Small bodies from Dunkirk and Newport frequently ran over and plundered the east coast: so unfit was the militia, as it was then constituted, for the defence of the kingdom. The lord lieutenants were first appointed to the counties in this reign.

Mr. Murden[***] has published, from the Salisbury collections, a paper which contains the military force of the nation at the time of the Spanish armada, and which is somewhat different from the account given by our ordinary historians. It makes all the able-bodied men of the kingdom amount to a hundred and eleven thousand five hundred and thirteen; those armed, to eighty thousand eight hundred and seventy-five; of whom forty-four thousand seven hundred and twenty-seven were trained. It must be supposed that these able-bodied men consisted of such only as were registered, otherwise the small number is not to be accounted for. Yet Sir Edward Coke[****] said, in the house of commons, that he was employed about the same time, together with Popham, chief justice, to take a survey of all the people of England, and that they found them to be nine hundred thousand of all sorts. This number, by the ordinary rules of computation, supposes that there were above two hundred thousand men able to bear arms. Yet even this number is surprisingly small. Can we suppose that the kingdom is six or seven times more populous at present? and that Murden's was the real number of men, excluding Catholics, and children, and infirm persons?

* Lives of the Admirals, vol. i. p. 432.

** Strype, vol. iv. p. 221

*** Page 608.

**** Journ. 25 April 1621.

Harrison says, that in the musters taken in the years 1574 and 1575, the men fit for service amounted to one million one hundred and seventy-two thousand six hundred and seventy-four; yet was it believed that a full third was omitted. Such uncertainty and contradiction are there in all these accounts.

Notwithstanding the greatness of this number, the same author complains much of the decay of populousness; a vulgar complaint in all places and all ages. Guicciardini makes the inhabitants of England in this reign amount to two millions.

Whatever opinion we may form of the comparative populousness of England in different periods, it must be allowed that, abstracting from the national debt, there is a prodigious increase of power in that, more perhaps than in any other European state, since the beginning of the last century. It would be no paradox to affirm, that Ireland alone could, at present, exert a greater force than all the three kingdoms were capable of at the death of Queen Elizabeth. And we might go further, and assert, that one good county in England is able to make, at least to support, a greater effort than the whole kingdom was capable of in the reign of Henry V.; when the maintenance of a garrison in a small town like Calais, formed more than a third of the ordinary national expense. Such are the effects of liberty, industry, and good government!

The state of the English manufactures was at this time very low; and foreign wares of almost all kinds had the preference.[*] About the year 1590, there were in London four persons only rated in the subsidy books so high as four hundred pounds.[**] This computation is not indeed to be deemed an exact estimate of their wealth. In 1567, there were found, on inquiry, to be four thousand eight hundred and fifty-one strangers of all nations in London; of whom three thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight were Flemings, and only fifty-eight Scots.[***] The persecutions in France and the Low Countries drove afterwards a greater number of foreigners into England; and the commerce, as well as manufactures of that kingdom, was very much improved by them.[****] It was then that Sir Thomas Gresham built, at his own charge, the magnificent fabric of the Exchange for the reception of the merchants: the queen visited it, and gave it the appellation of the Royal Exchange.

* D'Ewes, p. 505.

** D'Ewes, p. 497.

*** Haynes, p. 461, 462.

**** Stowe, p. 668.

By a lucky accident in language, which has a great effect on men's ideas, the invidious word usury which formerly meant the taking of any interest for money, came now to express only the taking of exorbitant and illegal interest. An act passed in 1571 violently condemns all usury; but permits ten per cent, interest to be paid. Henry IV. of France reduced Interest to six and a half per cent.; an indication of the great advance of France above England in commerce.

Dr. Howell says,[*] that Queen Elizabeth, in the third of her reign, was presented with a pair of black silk knit stockings by her silk-woman, and never wore cloth hose any more. The author of the Present State of England, says, that about 1577, pocket watches were first brought into England from Germany. They are thought to have been invented at Nurem berg. About 1580, the use of coaches was introduced by the earl of Arundel.[**] Before that time, the queen, on public occasions, rode behind her chamberlain.

Camden says, that in 1581, Randolph, so much employed by the queen in foreign embassies, possessed the office of postmaster-general of England. It appears, therefore, that posts were then established; though from Charles I.'s regulations in 1635, it would seem that few post-houses were erected before that time.

In a remonstrance of the Hanse Towns to the diet of the empire, in 1582, it is affirmed that England exported annually about two hundred thousand pieces of cloth.[***] This number seems to be much exaggerated.

In the fifth of this reign was enacted the first law for the relief of the poor.

A judicious author of that age confirms the vulgar observation, that the kingdom was depopulating, from the increase of enclosures and decay of tillage; and he ascribes the reason very justly to the restraints put oh the exportation of corn; while full liberty was allowed to export all the produce of pasturage, such as wool, hides, leather, tallow, etc. These prohibitions of exportation were derived from the prerogative, and were very injudicious. The queen once, on the commencement of her reign, had tried a contrary practice, and with good success. From the same author we learn, that the complaints renewed in our time were then very common, concerning the high prices of every thing.[****]

* History of the World, vol. ii. p. 222.

** Anderson, vol. i. p. 421.

*** Anderson, voL i. p. 424.

**** A compendious or brief Examination of certain ordinary Complaints of divers of our Countrymen. The author says, that in twenty or thirty years before 1581, commodities had in general risen fifty per cent.; some more. "Cannot you, neighbor, remember," say she "that, indeed, to have been two periods, in which prices rose remarkably in England;" namely, that in Queen Elizabeth's reign, when they are computed to have doubled, and that in the present age. Between the two, there seems to have been a stagnation. It would appear, that industry, during that intermediate period, increased as fast as gold and silver, and kept commodities nearly at a par with money.

There were two attempts made in this reign to settle colonies in America; one by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in Newfoundland, another by Sir Walter Raleigh in Virginia: but neither of these projects proved successful. All those noble settlements were made in the following reigns. The current specie of the kingdom, in the end of this reign, is computed at four millions.[*]

The earl of Leicester desired Sir Francis Walsingham, then ambassador in France, to provide him with a riding master in that country, to whom he promises a hundred pounds a year, besides maintaining himself and servant and a couple of horses. "I know," adds the earl, "that such a man as I want may receive higher wages in France: but let him consider, that a shilling in England goes as far as two shillings in France." [**] It is known that every thing is much changed since that time.

The nobility in this age still supported, in some degree, the ancient magnificence in their hospitality, and in the numbers of their retainers; and the queen found it prudent to retrench, by proclamation, their expenses in this last particular.[***] The expense of hospitality she somewhat encouraged, by the frequent visits she paid her nobility, and the sumptuous feasts which she received from them.

"I could, in this town, buy the best pig or goose I could lay my hands on for fourpence, which now costeth twelvepence; a good capon for threepence or fourpence; a chicken for a penny; a hen for twopence?" (p. 35.) "Yet the price of ordinary labor was then eightpence a day," (p. 31.)

* Lives of the Admirals, vol. i. p. 475.

** Digges's Complete Ambassador.

*** Strype, vol. iii. Append, p. 54.

Harrison, after enumerating the queen's palaces, adds, "But what shall I need to take upon me to repeat all, and tell what houses the queen's majesty hath? Sith all is hers; and when it pleaseth her in the summer season to recreate herself abroad, and view the estate of the country, and hear the complaints of her poor commons injured by her unjust officers or their substitutes, every nobleman's house is her palace, where she continueth during pleasure and tell her an entertainment in Kenilworth Castle, which was extraordinary for expense and magnificence." Among other particulars, we are told that three hundred and sixty-five hogsheads of beer were drunk at it.[*] The earl had fortified this castle at great expense; and it contained arms for ten thousand men.[**] The earl of Derby had a family consisting of two hundred and forty servants.[***] Stowe remarks it as a singular proof of beneficence in this nobleman, that he was contented with his rent from his tenants, and exacted not any extraordinary services from them; a proof that the great power of the sovereign (what was almost unavoidable) had very generally countenanced the nobility in tyrannizing over the people. Burleigh, though he was frugal, and had no paternal estate, kept a family consisting of a hundred servants.[****] He had a standing table for gentlemen, and two other tables for persons of meaner condition, which were always served alike, whether he were in town or in the country. About his person he had people of great distinction; insomuch that he could reckon up twenty gentlemen retainers who had each a thousand pounds a year; and as many among his ordinary servants who were worth from a thousand pounds to three, five, ten, and twenty thousand pounds.[v] It is to be remarked, that though the revenues of the crown were at that time very small, the ministers and courtiers sometimes found means, by employing the boundless prerogative, to acquire greater fortunes than it is possible for them at present to amass, from their larger salaries, and more limited authority.

Burleigh entertained the queen twelve several times in his country house; where she remained three, four, or five weeks at a time. Each visit cost him two or three thousand pounds.v The quantity of silver plate possessed by this nobleman is surprising; no less than fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds weight;[v**] which, besides the fashion, would be above forty-two thousand pounds sterling in value. Yet Burleigh left only four thousand pounds a year in land, and eleven thousand pounds in money; and as land was then commonly sold at ten years' purchase, his plate was nearly equal to all the rest of his fortune. It appears that little value was then put upon the fashion of the plate, which probably was but rude: the weight was chiefly considered.

*"She return again to some of her own, in which she remaineth so long as she pleaseth." Book ii. chap. 15. Surely one may say of such a guest, what Cicero says to Atticus, on occasion of a visit paid him by Caesar. "Hospes tamen non is cui diceres, Amabo te, eodem ad me cum revertere." Lib. xiii. Ep. 52. If she relieved the people from oppressions, (to whom it seems the law could give no relief,) her visits were a great oppression on the nobility.

** Biogr. Brit. vol. iii. p. 1791.

*** Strype, vol. iii. p. 394.

**** Stowe, p. 674.

v Strype, vol. iii. p. 129. Append.

v* Life of Burleigh, published by Collins.

v** Life of Burleigh published by Collins, p. 40.

But though there were preserved great remains of the ancient customs, the nobility were by degrees acquiring a taste for elegant luxury; and many edifices, in particular were built by them, neat, large, and sumptuous; to the great ornament of the kingdom, says Camden,[*] [41] but to the no less decay of the glorious hospitality of the nation. It is, however, more reasonable to think, that this new turn of expense promoted arts and industry; while the ancient hospitality was the source of vice, disorder, sedition, and idleness.[**]

Among the other species of luxury, that of apparel began much to increase during this age; and the queen thought proper to restrain it by proclamation.[***] Her example was very little conformable to her edicts. As no woman was ever more conceited of her beauty, or more desirous of making impression on the hearts of beholders, no one ever went to a greater extravagance in apparel, or studied more the variety and richness of her dresses. She appeared almost every day in a different habit; and tried all the several modes by which she hoped to render herself agreeable. She was also so fond of her clothes, that she never could part with any of them; and at her death she had in her wardrobe all the different habits, to the number of three thousand, which she had ever worn in her lifetime.[****] [42]

* See note OO, at the end of the volume.

** This appears from Burleigh's will: he specifies only the number of ounces to be given to each legatee, and appoints a goldsmith to see it weighed out to them, without making any distinction of the pieces.

**** See note PP, at the end of the volume.

The retrenchment of the ancient hospitality, and the diminution of retainers, were favorable to the prerogative of the sovereign; and, by disabling the great noblemen from resistance, promoted the execution of the laws, and extended the authority of the courts of justice. There were many peculiar causes in the situation and character of Henry VII. which augmented the authority of the crown: most of these causes concurred in succeeding princes; together with the factions in religion, and the acquisition of the supremacy, a most important article of prerogative: but the manners of the age were a general cause, which operated during this whole period, and which continually tended to diminish the riches, and still more the influence, of the aristocracy, anciently so formidable to the crown. The habits of luxury dissipated the immense fortunes of the ancient barons: and as the new methods of expense gave subsistence to mechanics and merchants, who lived in an independent manner on the fruits of their own industry, a nobleman, instead of that unlimited ascendant which he was wont to assume over those who were maintained at his board, or subsisted by salaries conferred on them, retained only that moderate influence which customers have over tradesmen, and which can never be dangerous to civil government. The landed proprietors also, having a greater demand for money than for men, endeavored to turn their lands to the best account with regard to profit; and either enclosing their fields, or joining many small farms into a few large ones, dismissed those useless hands which formerly were always at their call in every attempt to subvert the government, or oppose a neighboring baron. By all these means the cities increased; the middle rank of men began to be rich and powerful; the prince, who in effect was the same with the law, was implicitly obeyed: and though the further progress of the same causes begat a new plan of liberty, founded on the privileges of the commons, yet in the interval between the fall of the nobles and the rise of this order, the sovereign took advantage of the present situation, and assumed an authority almost absolute.

Whatever may be commonly imagined, from the authority of Lord Bacon, and from that of Harrington, and later authors the laws of Henry VII. contributed very little towards the great revolution which happened about this period in the English constitution. The practice of breaking entails by a fine and recovery, had been introduced in the preceding reigns; and this prince only gave indirectly a legal sanction to the practice, by reforming some abuses which attended it. But the settled authority which he acquired to the crown enabled the sovereign to encroach on the separate jurisdictions of the barons, and produced a more general and regular execution of the laws. The counties palatine underwent the same fate as the feudal powers; and, by a statute of Henry VIII.,[*] the jurisdiction of these counties was annexed to the crown, and all writs were ordained to run in the king's name. But the change of manners was the chief cause of the secret revolution of government, and subverted the power of the barons. There appear still in this reign some remains of the ancient slavery of the boors and peasants,[*] but none afterwards.

Learning, on its revival, was held in high estimation by the English princes and nobles; and as it was not yet prostituted by being too common, even the great deemed it an object of ambition to attain a character for literature. The four successive sovereigns, Henry, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, may, on one account or other, be admitted into the class of authors. Queen Catharine Parr translated a book: Lady Jane Gray, considering her age, and her sex, and her station, may be regarded as a prodigy of literature. Sir Thomas Smith was raised from being professor in Cambridge, first to be ambassador to France, then secretary of state. The despatches of those times, and among others those of Burleigh himself, are frequently interlarded with quotations from the Greek and Latin classics. Even the ladies of the court valued themselves on knowledge: Lady Burleigh, Lady Bacon, and their two sisters, were mistresses of the ancient as well as modern languages; and placed more pride in their erudition than in their rank and quality.

Queen Elizabeth wrote and translated several books: and she was familiarly acquainted with the Greek as well as Latin tongue.[**] [43]

* 27 Henry VIII. c. 24.

** See note QQ, at the end of the volume.

It is pretended that she made an extemporary reply in Greek to the university of Cambridge, who had addressed her in that language. It is certain that she answered in Latin without premeditation, and in a very spirited manner, to the Polish ambassador, who had been wanting in respect to her. When she had finished, she turned about to her courtiers, and said, "God's death, my lords," (for she was much addicted to swearing,) "I have been forced this day to scour up my old Latin, that hath long lain rusting."[*]

* Speed.

Elizabeth, even after she was queen, did not entirely drop the ambition of appearing as an author; and, next to her desire of admiration for beauty, this seems to have been the chief object of her vanity. She translated Boethius of the Consolation of Philosophy; in order, as she pretended, to allay her grief for Henry IV.'s change of religion. As far us we can judge from Elizabeth's compositions, we may pronounce that, notwithstanding her application, and her excellent parts, her taste in literature was but indifferent: she was much inferior to her successor in this particular, who was himself no perfect model of eloquence.

Unhappily for literature, at least for the learned of this age, the queen's vanity lay more in shining by her own learning, than in encouraging men of genius by her liberality. Spenser himself, the finest English writer of his age, was long neglected; and after the death of Sir Philip Sidney, his patron, was allowed to die almost for want. This poet contains great beauties, a sweet and harmonious versification, easy elocution, a fine imagination; yet does the perusal of his work become so tedious, that one never finishes it from the mere pleasure which it affords; it soon becomes a kind of task-reading, and it requires some effort and resolution to carry us on to the end of his long performance. This effect, of which every one is conscious, is usually ascribed to the change of manners: but manners have more changed since Homer's age; and yet that poet remains still the favorite of every reader of taste and judgment. Homer copied true natural manners, which, however rough or uncultivated, will always form an agreeable and interesting picture; but the pencil of the English poet was employed in drawing the affectations, and conceits, and fopperies of chivalry, which appear ridiculous as soon as they lose the recommendation of the mode. The tediousness of continued allegory, and that, too, seldom striking or ingenious, has also contributed to render the Fairy Queen peculiarly tiresome; not to mention the too great frequency of its descriptions, and the languor of its stanza. Upon the whole, Spenser maintains his place upon the shelves among our English classics; but he is seldom seen on the table; and there is scarcely any one, if he dares to be ingenuous, but will confess, that, notwithstanding all the merit of the poet, he affords an entertainment with which the palate is soon satiated. Several writers of late have amused themselves in copying the style of Spenser; and no imitation has been so indifferent as not to bear a great resemblance to the original: his manner is so peculiar that it is almost impossible not to transfer some of it into the copy.



{1603.} The crown of England was never transmitted from father to son with greater tranquillity than it passed from the family of Tudor to that of Stuart. During the whole reign of Elizabeth, the eyes of men had been employed in search of her successor; and when old age made the prospect of her death more immediate, there appeared none but the king of Scots who could advance any just claim or pretension to the throne. He was great-grandson of Margaret, elder daughter of Henry VII.; and, on the failure of the male line, his hereditary right remained unquestionable. If the religion of Mary queen of Scots, and the other prejudices contracted against her, had formed any considerable obstacle to her succession, these objections, being entirely personal, had no place with regard to her son. Men also considered, that though the title derived from blood had been frequently violated since the Norman conquest, such licenses had proceeded more from force or intrigue than from any deliberate maxims of government. The lineal heir had still in the end prevailed: and both his exclusion and restoration had been commonly attended with such convulsions as were sufficient to warn all prudent men not lightly to give way to such irregularities. If the will of Henry VIII., authorized by act of parliament, had tacitly excluded the Scottish line, the tyranny and caprices of that monarch had been so signal, that a settlement of this nature, unsupported by any just reason, had no authority with the people. Queen Elizabeth, too, with her dying breath, had recognized the undoubted title of her kinsman James; and the whole nation seemed to dispose themselves with joy and pleasure for his reception. Though born and educated amidst a foreign and hostile people, men hoped, from his character of moderation and wisdom, that he would embrace the maxims of an English monarch; and the prudent foresaw greater advantages resulting from a union with Scotland, than disadvantages from submitting to a prince of that nation. The alacrity with which the English looked towards the successor had appeared so evident to Elizabeth, that, concurring, with other causes, it affected her with the deepest melancholy; and that wise princess, whose penetration and experience had given her the greatest insight into human affairs, had not yet, sufficiently weighed the ingratitude of courtiers and levity of the people.

As victory abroad and tranquillity at home had attended this princess, she left the nation in such flourishing circumstances, that her successor possessed every advantage, except that of comparison with her illustrious name, when he mounted the throne of England. The king's journey from Edinburgh to London immediately afforded to the inquisitive some circumstances of comparison, which even the natural partiality in favor of their new sovereign could not interpret to his advantage. As he passed along, all ranks of men flocked about him from every quarter, allured by interest or curiosity. Great were the rejoicings, and loud and hearty the acclamations, which resounded from all sides; and every one could remember how the affability and popular manners of their queen displayed themselves amidst such concourse and exultation of her subjects. But James, though sociable and familiar with his friends and courtiers, hated the bustle of a mixed multitude; and though far from disliking flattery, yet was he still fonder of tranquillity and ease. He issued, therefore, a proclamation, forbidding this resort of people, on pretence of the scarcity of provisions, and other inconveniencies, which, he said, would necessarily attend it.[*]

* Kennet, p. 662.

He was not, however, insensible to the great flow of affection which appeared in his new subjects; and being himself of an affectionate temper, he seems to have been in haste to make them some return of kindness and good offices. To this motive, probably, we are to ascribe that profusion of titles which was observed in the beginning of his reign; when, in six weeks' time after his entrance into the kingdom, he is computed to have bestowed knighthood on no less than two hundred and thirty-seven persons. If Elizabeth's frugality of honors, as well as of money, had formerly been repined at, it began now to be valued and esteemed, and every one was sensible that the king, by his lavish and premature conferring of favors, had failed of obliging the persons on whom he bestowed them. Titles of all kinds became so common, that they were scarcely marks of distinction; and being distributed, without choice or deliberation, to persons unknown to the prince, were regarded more as the proofs of facility and good nature, than of any determined friendship or esteem.

A pasquinade was affixed to St. Paul's, in which an art was promised to be taught, very necessary to assist frail memories in retaining the names of the new nobility.[*]

We may presume that the English would have thrown less blame on the king's facility in bestowing favors, had these been confined entirely to their own nation, and had not been shared out, in too unequal proportions, to his old subjects. James, who, through his whole reign, was more guided by temper and inclination than by the rules of political prudence, had brought with him great numbers of his Scottish courtiers, whose impatience and importunity were apt, in many particulars, to impose on the easy nature of their master, and extort favors of which, it is natural to imagine, his English subjects would loudly complain. The duke of Lenox, the earl of Marre, Lord Hume, Lord Kinloss, Sir George Hume, Secretary Elphinstone,[**] were immediately added to the English privy council. Sir George Hume, whom he created earl of Dunbar, was his declared favorite as long as that nobleman lived, and was one of the wisest and most virtuous, though the least powerful, of all those whom the king ever honored with that distinction. Hay, some time after, was created Viscount Doncaster, then earl of Carlisle, and got an immense fortune from the crown, all which he spent in a splendid and courtly manner. Ramsay obtained the title of earl of Holderness; and many others being raised on a sudden to the highest elevation, increased, by their insolence, that envy which naturally attended them as strangers and ancient enemies.

* Wilson, in Kennet, p. 665.

** Wilson, in Kennet, p. 662.

It must, however, be owned, in justice to James, that he left almost all the chief offices in the hands of Elizabeth's ministers, and trusted the conduct of political concerns, both foreign and domestic, to his English subjects. Among these, Secretary Cecil, created successively Lord Effindon, Viscount Cranborne, and earl of Salisbury, was always regarded as his prime minister and chief counsellor. Though the capacity and penetration of this minister were sufficiently known, his favor with the king created surprise on the accession of that monarch. The secret correspondence into which he had entered with James, and which had sensibly contributed to the easy reception of that prince in England, laid the foundation of Cecil's credit; and while all his former associates, Sir Walter Raleigh, Lord Grey, Lord Cobham, were discountenanced on account of their animosity against Essex, as well as for other reasons, this minister was continued in employment, and treated with the greatest confidence and regard.

The capacity of James and his ministers in negotiation was immediately put to trial on the appearance of ambassadors from almost all the princes and states of Europe, in order to congratulate him on his accession, and form with him new treaties and alliances. Besides ministers from Venice, Denmark, the Palatinate; Henry Frederic of Nassau, assisted by Barnevelt, the pensionary of Holland, was ambassador from the states of the United Provinces. Aremberg was sent by Archduke Albert, and Taxis was expected in a little time from Spain. But he who most excited the attention of the public, both on account of his own merit and that of his master, was the marquis of Rosni, afterwards duke of Sully, prime minister and favorite of Henry IV. of France.

When the dominions of the house of Austria devolved on Philip II., all Europe was struck with terror, lest the power of a family, which had been raised by fortune, should now be carried to an immeasurable height by the wisdom and conduct of this monarch. But never were apprehensions found in the event to be more groundless. Slow without prudence, ambitious without enterprise, false without deceiving any body, and refined without any true judgment; such was the character of Philip, and such the character which, during his lifetime, and after his death, he impressed on the Spanish councils. Revolted or depopulated provinces, discontented or indolent inhabitants, were the spectacles which those dominions, lying in every climate of the globe, presented to Philip III., a weak prince, and to the duke of Lerma, a minister weak and odious. But though military discipline, which still remained, was what alone gave some appearance of life and vigor to that languishing body, yet so great was the terror produced by former power and ambition, that the reduction of the house of Austria was the object of men's vows throughout all the states of Christendom. It was not perceived, that the French empire, now united in domestic peace, and governed by the most heroic and most amiable prince that adorns modern story, was become, of itself, a sufficient counterpoise to the Spanish greatness. Perhaps that prince himself did not perceive it, when he proposed, by his minister, a league with James, in conjunction with Venice, the United Provinces, and the northern crowns, in order to attack the Austrian dominions on every side, and depress the exorbitant power of that ambitious family.[*] But the genius of the English monarch was not equal to such vast enterprises. The love of peace was his ruling passion; and it was his peculiar felicity, that the conjunctures of the times rendered the same object which was agreeable to him in the highest degree advantageous to his people.

The French ambassador, therefore, was obliged to depart from these extensive views, and to concert with James the means of providing for the safety of the United Provinces: nor was this object altogether without its difficulties. The king, before his accession, had entertained scruples with regard to the revolt of the Low Countries; and being commonly open and sincere,[**] he had, on many occasions, gone so far as to give to the Dutch the appellation of rebels; [***] but having conversed more fully with English ministers and courtiers, he found their attachment to that republic so strong, and their opinion of common interest so established, that he was obliged to sacrifice to politics his sense of justice; a quality which, even when erroneous, is respectable as well as rare in a monarch.

* Sully's Memoirs.

** La Boderie, voL i. p. 120.

*** Winwood, vol. ii. p 55.

He therefore agreed with Rosni to support secretly the states general, in concert with the king of France; lest their weakness and despair should oblige them to submit to their old master. The articles of the treaty were few and simple. It was stipulated, that the two kings should allow the Dutch to levy forces in their respective dominions; and should underhand remit to that republic the sum of one million four hundred thousand livres a year, for the pay of these forces: that the whole sum should be advanced by the king of France; but that the third of it should be deducted from the debt due by him to Queen Elizabeth. And if the Spaniards attacked either of the princes, they agreed to assist each other; Henry with a force of ten thousand men, James with that of six. This treaty, one of the wisest and most equitable concluded by James during the course of his reign was more the work of the prince himself, than any of his ministers.[*]

Amidst the great tranquillity, both foreign and domestic with which the nation was blest, nothing could be more surprising than the discovery of a conspiracy to subvert the government, and to fix on the throne Arabella Stuart, a near relation of the king's by the family of Lenox, and descended equally from Henry VII. Every thing remains still mysterious in this conspiracy; and history can give us no clew to unravel it. Watson and Clarke, two Catholic priests, were accused of the plot; Lord Grey, a Puritan; Lord Cobham, a thoughtless man, of no fixed principle; and Sir Walter Raleigh, suspected to be of that philosophical sect who were then extremely rare in England, and who have since received the appellation of "Free-thinkers;" together with these, Mr. Broke, brother to Lord Cobham, Sir Griffin Markham, Mr. Copeley, Sir Edward Parham. What cement could unite men of-such discordant principles in so dangerous a combination, what end they proposed, or what means proportioned to an undertaking of this nature, has never yet been explained, and cannot easily be imagined. As Raleigh, Grey, and Cobham were commonly believed, after the queen's death, to have opposed proclaiming the king till conditions should be made with him, they were, upon that account, extremely obnoxious to the court and ministry; and people were apt, at first, to suspect that the plot was merely a contrivance of Secretary Cecil, to get rid of his old confederates, now become his most inveterate enemies. But the confession, as well as trial, of the criminals, put the matter beyond doubt.[**] And though no one could find any marks of a concerted enterprise, it appeared that men of furious and ambitious spirits, meeting frequently together, and believing all the world discontented like themselves, had entertained very criminal projects, and had even entered, some of them at least, into a correspondence with Aremberg, the Flemish ambassador in order to give disturbance to the new settlement.

* Sully's Memoirs.

** State Trials, p. 180, 2d edit. Winwood, vol. ii. p. 8,11.

The two priests[*] and Broke[**] were executed: Cobham, Grey, and Markham were pardoned,[***] after they had laid their heads upon the block.[****] Raleigh too was reprieved, not pardoned; and he remained in confinement many years afterwards.

It appears from Sully's Memoirs, that Raleigh secretly offered his services to the French ambassador; and we may thence presume that, meeting with a repulse from that quarter, he had recourse, for the same unwarrantable purposes, to the Flemish minister. Such a conjecture we are now enabled to form; but it must be confessed, that on his trial there appeared no proof of this transaction, nor indeed any circumstance which could justify his condemnation. He was accused by Cobham alone, in a sudden fit of passion, upon hearing that Raleigh, when examined, had pointed out some circumstances by which Cobham's guilt might be known and ascertained. This accusation Cobham afterwards retracted; and, soon after, he retracted his retractation. Yet upon the written evidence of this single witness, a man of no honor or understanding, and so contradictory in his testimony; not confronted with Raleigh; not supported by any concurring circumstance; was that great man, contrary to all law and equity, found guilty by the jury. His name was at that time extremely odious in England; and every man was pleased to give sentence against the capital enemy of Essex, the favorite of the people.

Sir Edward Coke, the famous lawyer, then attorney-general, managed the cause for the crown, and threw out on Raleigh such gross abuse, as may be deemed a great reflection, not only on his own memory, but even, in some degree, on the manners of the age. Traitor, monster, viper, and spider of hell, are the terms which he employs against one of the most illustrious men of the kingdom, who was under trial for life and fortune, and who defended himself with temper, eloquence, and courage.[v]

* November 29.

** December 5.

*** December 9.

**** Winwood, vol. ii p. 11.

v State Trials, 1st edit. p. 176, 177, 182.

{1604.} The next occupation of the king was entirely according to his heart's content. He was employed in dictating magisterially to an assembly of divines concerning points of faith and discipline, and in receiving the applauses of these holy men for his superior zeal and learning. The religious disputes between the church and the Puritans had induced him to call a conference at Hampton Court, on pretence of finding expedients which might reconcile both parties.

Though the severities of Elizabeth towards the Catholics had much weakened that party, whose genius was opposite to the prevailing spirit of the nation, like severities had had so little influence on the Puritans, who were encouraged by that spirit, that no less than seven hundred and fifty clergymen of that party signed a petition to the king on his accession; and many more seemed willing to adhere to it.[*]

* Fuller, book x. Collier, vol. ii. p. 672.

They all hoped that James, having received his education in Scotland, and having sometimes professed an attachment to the church established there, would at least abate the rigor of the laws enacted in support of the ceremonies, and against Puritans; if he did not show more particular grace and encouragement to that sect. But the king's disposition had taken strongly a contrary bias. The more he knew the Puritanical clergy, the less favor he bore to them. He had remarked in their Scottish brethren a violent turn towards republicanism, and a zealous attachment to civil liberty; principles nearly allied to that religious enthusiasm with which they were actuated. He had found, that being mostly persons of low birth and mean education, the same lofty pretensions which attended them in their familiar addresses to their Maker, of whom they believed themselves the peculiar favorites, induced them to use the utmost freedoms with their earthly sovereign. In both capacities, of monarch and of theologian, he had experienced the little complaisance which they were disposed to show him; whilst they controlled his commands, disputed his tenets, and to his face, before the whole people, censured his conduct and behavior. If he had submitted to the indignity of courting their favor, he treasured up, on that account, the stronger resentment against them, and was determined to make them feel, in their turn, the weight of his authority. Though he had often met with resistance, and faction, and obstinacy in the Scottish nobility, he retained no ill will to that order; or rather showed them favor and kindness in England, beyond what reason and sound policy could well justify; but the ascendant which the Presbyterian clergy had assumed over him, was what his monarchical pride could never thoroughly digest.[*]

* James ventured to say, in his Basilicon Duron, published while he was in Scotland, "I protest before the great God, and since I am here as upon my Testament, it is no place for me to lie in, that ye shall never find with any highland or borderer thieves, greater in gratitude, and more lies and vile perjuries, than with these fanatic spirits: and suffer not the principal of them to brook your land,"—King James's Works, p. 161.

He dreaded likewise the popularity which attended this order of men in both kingdoms. As useless austerities and self-denial are imagined, in many religions, to render us acceptable to a benevolent Being, who created us solely for happiness, James remarked, that the rustic severity of these clergymen, and of their whole sect, had given them, in the eyes of the multitude, the appearance of sanctity and virtue. Strongly inclined himself to mirth, and wine, and sports of all kinds, he apprehended their censure for his manner of life, free and disengaged. And being thus averse, from temper as well as policy, to the sect of Puritans, he was resolved, if possible, to prevent its further growth in England.

But it was the character of James's councils, throughout his whole reign, that they were more wise and equitable in their end, than prudent and political in the means. Though justly sensible that no part of civil administration required greater care or a nicer judgment than the conduct of religious parties, he had not perceived that, in the same proportion as this practical knowledge of theology is requisite, the speculative refinements in it are mean, and even dangerous in a monarch. By entering zealously into frivolous disputes, James gave them an air of importance and dignity which they could not otherwise have acquired; and being himself enlisted in the quarrel, he could no longer have recourse to contempt and ridicule, the only proper method of appeasing it. The church of England had not yet abandoned the rigid doctrines of grace and pre-destination: the puritans had not yet separated themselves from the church, nor openly renounced Episcopacy. Though the spirit of the parties was considerably different, the only appearing subjects of dispute were concerning the cross in baptism, the ring in marriage, the use of the surplice, and the bowing at the name of Jesus. These were the mighty questions which were solemnly agitated in the conference at Hampton Court between some bishops and dignified clergymen on the one hand, and some leaders of the Puritanical party on the other, the king and his ministers being present.[*]

The Puritans were here so unreasonable as to complain of a partial and unfair management of the dispute; as if the search after truth were in any degree the object of such conferences, and a candid indifference, so rare even among private inquirers in philosophical questions, could ever be expected among princes and prelates, in a theological controversy. The king, it must be confessed, from the beginning of the conference, showed the strongest propensity to the established church, and frequently inculcated a maxim which, though it has some foundation, is to be received with great limitations, "No bishop, no king." The bishops, in their turn, were very liberal of their praises towards the royal disputant; and the archbishop of Canterbury said, that "undoubtedly his majesty spake by the special assistance of God's Spirit."[**] A few alterations in the liturgy were agreed to, and both parties separated with mutual dissatisfaction.

It had frequently been the practice of the Puritans to form certain assemblies, which they called "prophesyings;" where alternately, as moved by the spirit, they displayed their pious zeal in prayers and exhortations, and raised their own enthusiasm, as well as that of their audience, to the highest pitch, from that social contagion which has so mighty an influence on holy fervors, and from the mutual emulation which arose in those trials of religious eloquence. Such dangerous societies had been suppressed by Elizabeth; and the ministers in this conference moved the king for their revival. But James sharply replied, "If you aim at a Scottish presbytery, it agrees as well with monarchy as God and the devil. There Jack and Tom, and Will and Dick, shall meet and censure me and my council. Therefore I reiterate my former speech: Le roi s'avisera. Stay, I pray, for one seven years, before you demand; and then, if you find me grow pursy and fat, I may perchance hearken unto you. For that government will keep me in breath, and give me work enough."[***] Such were the political considerations which determined the king in his choice among religious parties.

* Fuller's Ecclesiastical History.

** Kennet, p. 665.

*** Fuller's Ecclesiastical History.

The next assembly in which James displayed his learning and eloquence, was one that showed more spirit of liberty than appeared among his bishops and theologians The parliament was now ready to assemble; being so long delayed on account of the plague, which had broken out in London, and raged to such a degree, that above thirty thousand persons are computed to have died of it in a year; though the city contained at that time little more than one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants.

The speech which the king made on opening the parliament, fully displays his character, and proves him to have possessed more knowledge and better parts, than prudence, or any just sense of decorum and propriety.[*] Though few productions of the age surpass this performance either in style or matter, it wants that majestic brevity and reserve which become a king in his addresses to the great council of the nation. It contains, however, a remarkable stroke of candor, where he confesses his too great facility in yielding to the solicitations of suitors:[**] a fault which he promises to correct, but which adhered to him, and distressed him, during the whole course of his reign.

The first business in which the commons were engaged was of the utmost importance to the preservation of their privileges; and neither temper nor resolution was wanting in their conduct of it.

In the former periods of the English government, the house of commons was of so small weight in the balance of the constitution, that little attention had been given either by the crown, the people, or the house itself, to the choice and continuance of the members. It had been usual, after parliaments were prolonged beyond one session, for the chancellor to exert a discretionary authority of issuing new writs to supply the place of any members whom he judged incapable of attending, either on account of their employment, their sickness, or other impediment. This practice gave that minister, and consequently the prince, an unlimited power of modelling at pleasure the representatives of the nation; yet so little jealousy had it created, that the commons of themselves, without any court influence or intrigue, and contrary to some former votes of their own, confirmed it in the twenty-third of Elizabeth.[***]

* King James's Works, p. 484, 485, etc. Journ. 22d March, 1603. Kennet, p. 668.

** King James's Works, p. 495, 496.

*** Journ. January 19th, 1580.

At that time, though some members, whose places had been supplied on account of sickness, having now recovered their health, appeared in the house and claimed their seat, such was the authority of the chancellor, that, merely out of respect to him, his sentence was adhered to, and the new members were continued in their places. Here a most dangerous prerogative was conferred on the crown: but to show the genius of that age, or rather the channels in which power then ran, the crown put very little value on this authority; insomuch that two days afterwards the chancellor of himself resigned it back to the commons, and gave them power to judge of a particular vacancy in their house. And when the question concerning the chancellor's new writs was again brought on the carpet towards the end of the session, the commons were so little alarmed at the precedent, that though they readmitted some old members, whose seats had been vacated on account of slight indispositions, yet they confirmed the chancellor's sentence, in instances where the distemper appeared to have been dangerous and incurable.[*]

* Journ. March 18th, 1580. See further, D'Ewes, p 430.

Nor did they proceed any further in vindication of their privileges than to vote, "That during the sitting of parliament, there do not, at any time, any writ go out for choosing or returning any member without the warrant of the house." In Elizabeth's reign, we may remark, and the reigns preceding, sessions of parliament were not usually the twelfth part so long as the vacations; and during the latter, the chancellor's power, if he pleased to exert it, was confirmed, at least left, by this vote, as unlimited and unrestrained as ever.

In a subsequent parliament, the absolute authority of the queen was exerted in a manner still more open; and began for the first time to give alarm to the commons. New writs having been issued by the chancellor when there was no vacancy, and a controversy arising upon that incident, the queen sent a message to the house, informing them that it were impertinent for them to deal in such matters. These questions, she said, belonged only to the chancellor; and she had appointed him to confer with the judges, in order to settle all disputes with regard to elections. The commons had the courage, a few days after, to vote, "That it was a most perilous precedent, where two knights of a county were duly elected, if any new writ should issue out for a second election without order of the house itself: that the discussing and adjudging of this and such like differences belonged only to the house; and that there should be no message sent to the lord chancellor, not so much as to inquire what he had done in the matter, because it was conceived to be a matter derogatory to the power and privilege of the house."[*] This is the most considerable, and almost only instance of parliamentary liberty, which occurs during the reign of that princess.

Outlaws, whether on account of debts or crimes, had been declared by the judges[*] incapable of enjoying a seat in the house, where they must themselves be lawgivers; but this opinion of the judges had been frequently overruled. I find, however, in the case of Vaughan,[**] who was questioned for an outlawry, that, having proved all his debts to have been contracted by suretyship, and to have been most of them honestly compounded, he was allowed, on account of these favorable circumstances, to keep his seat; which plainly supposes, that otherwise it would have been vacated on account of the outlawry.[***]

When James summoned this parliament, he issued a proclamation,[****] in which, among many general advices, which, like a kind tutor, he bestowed on his people, he strictly enjoins them not to choose any outlaw for their representative. And he adds, "If any person take upon him the place of knight, citizen, or burgess, not being duly elected, according to the laws and statutes in that behalf provided, and according to the purport, effect, and true meaning of this our proclamation, then every person so offending to be fined or imprisoned for the same." A proclamation here was plainly put on the same footing with a law, and that in so delicate a point as the right of elections; most alarming circumstances, had there not been reason to believe that this measure, being entered into so early in the king's reign, proceeded more from precipitation and mistake, than from any serious design of invading the privileges of parliament.[v]

* D'Ewes, p. 397.

** 39 H. 6.

*** Journ. Feb. 8th, 1580.

**** In a subsequent parliament, that of the thirty-fifth of the queen, the commons, after a great debate, expressly voted, that a person outlawed might be elected. D'Ewes, p. 518. But as the matter had been much contested, the king might think the vote of the house no law, and might esteem his own decision of more weight than theirs. We may also suppose that he was not acquainted with this vote. Queen Elizabeth, in her speech to her last parliament, complained of their admitting outlaws, and represents that conduct of the house as a great abuse.

v Jan. 11th, 1604. Rymer, tom. xvi. p. 561.

Sir Francis Goodwin was chosen member for the county of Bucks; and his return, as usual, was made into chancery. The chancellor, pronouncing him an outlaw, vacated his seat and issued writs for a new election.[*] Sir John Fortescue was chosen in his place by the county: but the first act of the house was to reverse the chancellor's sentence, and restore Sir Francis to his seat. At the king's suggestion, the lords desired a conference on the subject; but were absolutely refused by the commons, as the question entirely regarded their own privileges.[**] The commons, however, agreed to make a remonstrance to the king by the mouth of their speaker; in which they maintained that, though the returns were by form made into chancery, yet the sole right of judging with regard to elections belonged to the house itself, not to the chancellor.[***] James was not satisfied, and ordered a conference between the house and the judges, whose opinion in this case was opposite to that of the commons. This conference, he said, he commanded as an "absolute" king;[****] an epithet, we are apt to imagine, not very grateful to English ears, but one to which they had already been somewhat accustomed from the mouth of Elizabeth.[v] [44] He added, "That all their privileges were derived from his grant, and hoped they would not turn them against him;"v a sentiment which, from her conduct, it is certain that princess had also entertained, and which was the reigning principle of her courtiers and ministers, and the spring of all her administration.

* The duke of Sully tells us, that it was a maxim of James, that no prince, in the first year of his reign, should begin any considerable undertaking; a maxim reasonable in itself, and very suitable to his cautious, not to say timid character. The facility with which he departed from this pretension, is another proof that his meaning was innocent. But had the privileges of parliament been at that time exactly ascertained, or royal power fully limited, could such an imagination ever have been entertained by him, as to think that his proclamations could regulate parliamentary elections?

** Winwood, vol. ii. p. 18, 19.

*** Journ. 26th March, 1604

**** Journ. 3d April, 1604.

v See note RR, at the end of the volume.

v* Camden, in Kennet, p. 375.

The commons were in some perplexity. Their eyes were now opened, and they saw the consequences of that power which had been assumed by the chancellor, and to which their predecessors had in some instances blindly submitted. "By this course," said a member, "the free election of the counties is taken away, and none shall be chosen but such as shall please the king and council. Let us therefore with fortitude, understanding, and sincerity, seek to maintain our privilege. This cannot be construed any contempt in us, but merely a maintenance of our common rights, which our ancestors have left us, and which it is just and fit for us to transmit to our posterity."[*] Another said, "This may be called a quo warranto to seize all our liberties."[**] "A chancellor," added a third, "by this course may call a parliament consisting of what persons he pleases. Any suggestion, by any person, may be the cause of sending a new writ. It is come to this plain question, whether the chancery or parliament ought to have authority."[***]

Notwithstanding this watchful spirit of liberty which now appeared in the commons, their deference for majesty was so great that they appointed a committee to confer with the judges before the king and council. There the question of law began to appear in James's eyes a little more doubtful than he had hitherto imagined it; and in order to extricate himself with some honor, he proposed that both Goodwin and Fortescue should be set aside, and a writ be issued, by warrant of the house, for a new election. Goodwin gave his consent, and the commons embraced the expedient; but in such a manner that, while they showed their regard for the king, they secured for the future the free possession of their seats, and the right which they claimed of judging solely in their own elections and returns.[****] [45]

A power like this, so essential to the exercise of all their other powers, themselves so essential to public liberty, cannot fairly be deemed an encroachment in the commons; but must be regarded as an inherent privilege, happily rescued from that ambiguity which the negligence of some former parliaments had thrown upon it.

At the same time, the commons, in the case of Sir Thomas Shirley, established their power of punishing, as well the persons at whose suit any member is arrested, as the officers who either arrest or detain him. Their asserting of this privilege admits of the same reflection.[v]

* Journ, 30th March, 1604.

** Journ, 30th March, 1604.

*** Journ. 30th March, 1604.

**** See note SS, at the end of the volume.

v Journ. 6th and 7th May, 1604.

About this period, the minds of men throughout Europe, especially in England, seem to have undergone a general but insensible revolution. Though letters had been revived in the preceding age, they were chiefly cultivated by those of sedentary professions; nor had they till now begun to spread themselves in any degree among men of the world. Arts, both mechanical and liberal, were every day receiving great improvements. Navigation had extended itself over the whole globe. Travelling was secure and agreeable. And the general system of politics in Europe was become more enlarged and comprehensive.

In consequence of this universal fermentation, the ideas of men enlarged themselves on all sides; and the several constituent parts of the Gothic governments, which seem to have lain long inactive, began everywhere to operate and encroach on each other. On the continent, where the necessity of discipline had begotten standing armies, the princes commonly established an unlimited authority, and overpowered, by force or intrigue, the liberties of the people. In England, the love of freedom, which, unless checked, flourishes extremely in all liberal natures, acquired new force, and was regulated by more enlarged views, suitable to that cultivated understanding which became every day more common among men of birth and education. A familiar acquaintance with the precious remains of antiquity excited in every generous breast a passion for a limited constitution, and begat an emulation of those manly virtues which the Greek and Roman authors, by such animating examples, as well as pathetic expressions, recommend to us. The severe, though popular government of Elizabeth had confined this rising spirit within very narrow bounds; but when a new and a foreign family succeeded to the throne, and a prince less dreaded and less beloved, symptoms immediately appeared of a more free and independent genius in the nation.

Happily, this prince possessed neither sufficient capacity to perceive the alteration, nor sufficient art and vigor to check it in its early advances. Jealous of regal, because conscious of little personal authority, he had established within his own mind a speculative system of absolute government, which few of his subjects, he believed, and none but traitors and rebels, would make any scruple to admit. On whichever side he cast his eye, every thing concurred to encourage his prejudices. When he compared himself with the other hereditary sovereigns of Europe, he imagined that, as he bore the same rank, he was entitled to equal prerogatives; not considering the innovations lately introduced by them, and the military force by which their authority was supported. In England, that power, almost unlimited, which had been exercised for above a century, especially during the late reign, he ascribed solely to royal birth and title; not to the prudence and spirit of the monarchs, nor to the conjunctures of the times. Even the opposition which he had struggled with in Scotland, encouraged him still further in his favorite notions; while he there saw, that the same resistance which opposed regal authority, violated all law and order, and made way either for the ravages of a barbarous nobility, or for the more intolerable insolence of seditious preachers. In his own person, therefore, he thought all legal power to be centred, by an hereditary and a divine right: and this opinion might have proved dangerous, if not fatal to liberty, had not the firmness of the persuasion, and its seeming evidence, induced him to trust solely to his right, without making the smallest provision, either of force or politics, in order to support it.

Such were the opposite dispositions of parliament and prince at the commencement of the Scottish line; dispositions just beginning to exist and to appear in the parliament,[*] [46] but thoroughly established and openly avowed on the part of the prince.

* See note TT, at the end of the volume.

The spirit and judgment of the house of commons appeared, not only in defence of their own privileges, but also in their endeavor, though at this time in vain, to free trade from those shackles which the high exerted prerogative, and even, in this respect, the ill-judged tyranny of Elizabeth, had imposed upon it.

James had already, of his own accord, called in and annulled all the numerous patents for monopolies which had been granted by his predecessor, and which extremely fettered every species of domestic industry: but the exclusive companies still remained; another species of monopoly, by which almost all foreign trade, except that to France, was brought into the hands of a few rapacious engrossers, and all prospect of future improvement in commerce was forever sacrificed to a little temporary advantage of the sovereign. These companies, though arbitrarily erected, had carried their privileges so far, that almost all the commerce of England was centred in London; and it appears that the customs of that port amounted to one hundred and ten thousand pounds a year, while those of all the kingdom beside yielded only seventeen thousand.[*] Nay, the whole trade of London was confined to about two hundred citizens,[**] who were easily enabled, by combining among themselves, to fix whatever price they pleased both to the exports and imports of the nation. The committee appointed to consider this enormous grievance, one of the greatest which we read of in English story, insist on it as a fact well known and avowed, however contrary to present received opinion, that shipping and seamen had insensibly decayed during all the preceding reign.[***] And though nothing be more common than complaints of the decay of trade, even during the most flourishing periods, yet is this a consequence which might naturally result from such arbitrary establishments, at a time when the commerce of all the other nations of Europe, except that of Scotland, enjoyed full liberty and indulgence.

While the commons were thus attempting to give liberty to the trading part of the nation, they also endeavored to free the landed property from the burden of wardships,[****] and to remove those remains of the feudal tenures under which the nation still labored. A just regard was shown to the crown in the conduct of this affair; nor was the remedy sought for considered as a matter of right, but merely of grace and favor. The profit which the king reaped, both from wards and from respite of homage, was estimated; and it was intended to compound for these prerogatives by a secure and independent revenue. But after some debates in the house, and some conferences with the lords, the affair was found to contain more difficulties than could easily, at that time, be surmounted; and it was not then brought to any conclusion.

The same fate attended an attempt of a like nature, to free the nation from the burden of purveyance. This prerogative had been much abused by the purveyors;[v] and the commons showed some intention to offer the king fifty thousand pounds a year for the abolition of it.

* Journ. 21st May, 1604.

** Journ. 21st May, 1604.

*** A remonstrance from the Trinity House, in 1602, says, that in a little above twelve years after 1588, the shipping and number of seamen in England decayed about a third. Anglesey's Happy Future State of England, p. 128, from Sir Julius Caesar's Collections. See Journ. 21st May, 1604.

**** Journ. 1st June, 1604.

v Journ. 30th April, 1604.

Another affair of the utmost consequence was brought before the parliament, where the commons showed a greater spirit of independence than any true judgment of national interest. The union of the two kingdoms was zealously, and even impatiently, urged by the king.[*] He justly regarded it as the peculiar felicity of his reign, that he had terminated the bloody animosities of these hostile nations; and had reduced the whole island under one government, enjoying tranquillity within itself, and security from all foreign invasions. He hoped that, while his subjects of both kingdoms reflected on past disasters, besides regarding his person as infinitely precious, they would entertain the strongest desire of securing themselves against the return of like calamities, by a thorough union of laws, parliaments, and privileges. He considered not, that this very reflection operated, as yet, in a contrary manner on men's prejudices, and kept alive that mutual hatred between the nations, which had been carried to the greatest extremities, and required time to allay it. The more urgent the king appeared in promoting so useful a measure, the more backward was the English parliament in concurring with him; while they ascribed his excessive zeal to that partiality in favor of his ancient subjects, of which they thought that, on other occasions, they had reason to complain. Their complaisance for the king, therefore, carried them no further than to appoint forty-four English to meet with thirty-one Scottish commissioners, in order to deliberate concerning the terms of a union; but without any power of making advances towards the establishment of it.[**]

* Journ. 21st April, 1st May, 1604. Parliamentary History, vol v p. 91.

** Journ. 7th June, 1604. Kennet, p. 673.

The same spirit of independence, and perhaps not better judgment, appeared in the house of commons when the question of supply was brought before them by some members attached to the court. In vain was it urged that, though the king received a supply which had been voted to Elizabeth, and which had not been collected before her death, yet he found it burdened with a debt contracted by the queen, equal to the full amount of it: that peace was not yet thoroughly concluded with Spain, and that Ireland was still expensive.

On his journey from Scotland, amidst such a concourse of people, and on that of the queen and royal family he had expended considerable sums; and that, as the courtiers had looked for greater liberalities from the prince on his accession, and had imposed on his generous nature, so the prince, in his turn, would expect, at the beginning, some mark of duty and attachment from his people, and some consideration of his necessities. No impression was made on the house of commons by these topics; and the majority appeared fully determined to refuse all supply. The burden of government, at that time, lay surprisingly light upon the people: and that very reason, which to us, at this distance, may seem a motive of generosity, was the real cause why the parliament was, on all occasions, so remarkably, frugal and reserved. They were not, as yet, accustomed to open their purses in so liberal a manner as their successors, in order to supply the wants of their sovereign; and the smallest demand, however requisite, appeared in their eyes unreasonable and exorbitant. The commons seem also to have been desirous of reducing the crown to still further necessities, by their refusing a bill, sent down to them by the lords, for entailing the crown lands forever on the king's heirs and successors.[*] The dissipation made by Elizabeth had probably taught James the necessity of this law, and shown them the advantage of refusing it.

In order to cover a disappointment with regard to supply, which might bear a bad construction both at home and abroad, James sent a message to the house,[*] in which he told them that he desired no supply; and he was very forward in refusing what was never offered him.

* Parliamentary Hist. vol. v. p. 108.

Soon after, he prorogued the parliament, not without discovering in his speech visible marks of dissatisfaction. Even so early in his reign, he saw reason to make public complaints of the restless and encroaching spirit of the Puritanical party, and of the malevolence with which they endeavored to inspire the commons. Nor were his complaints without foundation, or the Puritans without interest; since the commons, now finding themselves free from the arbitrary government of Elizabeth, made application for a conference with the lords, and presented a petition to the king; the purport of both which was, to procure in favor of the Puritans, a relaxation of the ecclesiastical laws.[*] The use of the surplice, and of the cross in baptism is there chiefly complained of; but the remedy seems to have been expected solely from the king's dispensing power,[**] In the papers which contain this application and petition, we may also see proofs of the violent animosity of the commons against the Catholics, together with the intolerating spirit of that assembly.[***] [47]

This summer, the peace with Spain was finally concluded, and was signed by the Spanish ministers at London.[****] In the conferences previous to this treaty, the nations were found to have so few claims on each other, that, except on account of the support given by England to the Low Country provinces, the war might appear to have been continued more on account of personal animosity between Philip and Elizabeth, than any contrariety of political interests between their subjects. Some articles in the treaty, which seemed prejudicial to the Dutch commonwealth, were never executed by the king; and as the Spaniards made no complaints on that head, it appeared that, by secret agreement, the king had expressly reserved the power of sending assistance to the Hollanders.[v] The constable of Castile came into England to ratify the peace; and on the part of England, the earl of Hertford was sent into the Low Countries for the same purpose, and the earl of Nottingham, high admiral, into Spain. The train of the latter was numerous and splendid; and the Spaniards, it is said, were extremely surprised when they beheld the blooming countenances and graceful appearance of the English, whom their bigotry, inflamed by the priests, had represented as so many monsters and infernal demons.

* La Boderie, the French ambassador, says, that the house of commons [Greek: ][Greek: ]was composed mostly of Puritans. Vol. i. p. 81.

** Parl. Hist. vol. v. p. 98, 99, 100.

*** See note UU, at the end of the volume.

**** Rymer, torn. xvi. p. 585, etc.

v Winwood, vol. ii. p. 27, 330, et alibi.

Though England, by means of her naval force, was perfectly secure during the latter years of the Spanish war, James showed an impatience to put an end to hostilities; and soon after his accession, before any terms of peace were concerted, or even proposed by Spain, he recalled all the letters of marque.

In this respect, James's peace was more honorable than that which Henry IV. himself made with Spain. This latter prince stipulated not to assist the Dutch; and the supplies which he secretly sent them were in direct contravention to the treaty.[*] which had been granted by Queen Elizabeth. Archduke Albert had made some advances of a like nature[**] which invited the king to take this friendly step. But what is remarkable, in James's proclamation for that purpose he plainly supposes, that as he had himself, while king of Scotland, always lived in amity with Spain, peace was attached to his person; and that merely by his accession to the crown of England, without any articles of treaty or agreement, he had ended the war between the kingdoms.[***] This ignorance of the law of nations may appear surprising in a prince who was thirty-six years of age, and who had reigned from his infancy; did we not consider that a king of Scotland, who lives in close friendship with England, has few transactions to manage with foreign princes, and has little opportunity of acquiring experience. Unhappily for James, his timidity, his prejudices, his indolence, his love of amusement, particularly of hunting, to which he was much addicted, ever prevented him from making any progress in the knowledge or practice of foreign politics, and in a little time diminished that regard which all the neighboring nations had paid to England during the reign of his predecessor.[****]

* 23d June., 1603.

** Grotii Annal. lib xii.

*** See Proclamations during the first seven years of King James Winwood, vol. ii. p. 65.

**** Memoires do la Boderia, vol i p. 64,181, 195, 217, 302; vol. ii p. 214, 278.



{1604.} We are now to relate an event, one of the most memorable that history has conveyed to posterity, and containing at once a singular proof both of the strength and weakness of the human mind; its widest departure from morals, and most steady attachment to religious prejudices. It is the "gunpowder treason" of which I speak; a fact as certain as it appears incredible.

The Roman Catholics had expected great favor and indulgence on the accession of James, both as he was descended from Mary, whose life they believed to have been sacrificed to their cause, and as he himself, in his early youth, was imagined to have shown some partiality towards them, which nothing, they thought, but interest and necessity had since restrained. It is pretended, that he had even entered into positive engagements to tolerate their religion as soon as he should mount the throne of England; whether their credulity had interpreted in this sense some obliging expressions of the king's, or that he had employed such an artifice in order to render them favorable to his title.[*]

* State Trials, vol. ii. p. 201, 202, 203. Winwood, vol. ii. p. 49.

Very soon they discovered their mistake; and were at once surprised and enraged to find James on all occasions express his intention of strictly executing the laws enacted against them, and of persevering in all the rigorous measures of Elizabeth. Catesby, a gentleman of good parts and of an ancient family, first thought of a most extraordinary method of revenge; and he opened his intention to Piercy, a descendant of the illustrious house of Northumberland. In one of their conversations with regard to the distressed condition of the Catholics, Piercy having broken into a sally of passion, and mentioned assassinating the king, Catesby took the opportunity of revealing to him a nobler and more extensive plan of treason, which not only included a sure execution of vengeance, but afforded some hopes of restoring the Catholic religion in England. "In vain," said he, "would you put an end to the king's life: he has children, who would succeed both to his crown and to his maxims of government. In vain would you extinguish the whole royal family: the nobility, the gentry, the parliament are all infected with the same heresy, and could raise to the throne another prince and another family, who, besides their hatred to our religion, would be animated with revenge for the tragical death of their predecessors. To serve any good purpose, we must destroy, at one blow, the king, the royal family, the lords, the commons; and bury all our enemies in one common ruin. Happily, they are all assembled on the first meeting of the parliament, and afford us the opportunity of glorious and useful vengeance. Great preparations will not be requisite. A few of us, combining, may run a mine below the hall in which they meet; and choosing the very moment when the king harangues both houses, consign over to destruction these determined foes to all piety and religion. Meanwhile, we ourselves standing aloof, safe and unsuspected, shall triumph in being the instruments of divine wrath, and shall behold with pleasure those sacrilegious walls, in which were passed the edicts for proscribing our church and butchering her children, tossed into a thousand fragments; while their impious inhabitants, meditating, perhaps, still new persecutions against us, pass from flames above to flames below, there forever to endure the torments due to their offences."[*]

Piercy was charmed with this project of Catesby; and they agreed to communicate the matter to a few more, and among the rest to Thomas Winter, whom they sent over to Flanders in quest of Fawkes, an officer in the Spanish service, with whose zeal and courage they were all thoroughly acquainted. When they enlisted any new conspirator, in order to bind him to secrecy, they always, together with an oath, employed the communion, the most sacred rite of their religion.[**] And it is remarkable, that no one of these pious devotees ever entertained the least compunction with regard to the cruel massacre which they projected, of whatever was great and eminent in the nation. Some of them only were startled by the reflection, that of necessity many Catholics must be present, as spectators or attendants on the king, or as having seats in the house of peers: but Tesmond, a Jesuit, and Garnet, superior of that order in England, removed these scruples, and showed them how the interests of religion required that the innocent should here be sacrificed with the guilty.

* History of the Gunpowder Treason.

** State Trials, vol. i. p. 190, 198, 210.

All this passed in the spring and summer of the year 1604; when the conspirators also hired a house in Piercy's name, adjoining to that in which the parliament was to assemble. Towards the end of that year, they began their operations. That they might be less interrupted, and give less suspicion to the neighborhood, they carried in store of provisions with them, and never desisted from their labor. Obstinate in their purpose, and confirmed by passion, by principle, and by mutual exhortation, they little feared death in comparison of a disappointment; and having provided arms, together with the instruments of their labor, they resolved there to perish in case of a discovery. Their perseverance advanced the work; and they soon pierced the wall, though three yards in thickness; but on approaching the other side, they were somewhat startled at hearing a noise which they knew not how to account for.

{1605.} Upon inquiry, they found that it came from the vault below the house of lords; that a magazine of coals had been kept there; and that, as the coals were selling off, the vault would be let to the highest bidder. The opportunity was immediately seized; the place hired by Piercy; thirty-six barrels of powder lodged in it; the whole covered up with fagots and billets; the doors of the cellar boldly flung open; and every body admitted, as if it contained nothing dangerous.

Confident of success, they now began to look forward, and to plan the remaining part of their project. The king, the queen, Prince Henry, were all expected to be present at the opening of parliament. The duke, by reason of his tender age, would be absent; and it was resolved that Piercy should seize him, or assassinate him. The princess Elizabeth, a child likewise, was kept at Lord Harrington's house in Warwickshire; and Sir Everard Digby, Rookwood, Grant, being let into the conspiracy, engaged to assemble their friends on pretence of a hunting match, and seizing that princess, immediately to proclaim her queen. So transported were they with rage against their adversaries, and so charmed with the prospect of revenge, that they forgot all care of their own safety; and trusting to the general confusion which must result from so unexpected a blow, they foresaw not that the fury of the people, now unrestrained by any authority, must have turned against them, and would probably have satiated itself by a universal massacre of the Catholics.

The day so long wished for now approached, on which the parliament was appointed to assemble. The dreadful secret, though communicated to above twenty persons, had been religiously kept during the space of near a year and a half. No remorse, no pity, no fear of punishment, no hope of reward, had as yet induced any one conspirator either to abandon the enterprise, or make a discovery of it. The holy fury had extinguished in their breast every other motive; and it was an indiscretion at last, proceeding chiefly from these very bigoted prejudices and partialities, which saved the nation.

Ten days before the meeting of parliament, Lord Monteagle, a Catholic, son to Lord Morley, received the following letter, which had been delivered to his servant by an unknown hand: "My Lord,—Out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation. Therefore I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift off your attendance at this parliament For God and man have concurred to punish the wickedness of this time. And think not slightly of this advertisement; but retire yourself into your country, where you may expect the event in safety. For though there be no appearance of any stir, yet, I say, they will receive a terrible blow this parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them. This counsel is not to be contemned, because it may do you good, and can do you no harm: for the danger is past as soon as you have burned the letter. And I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, unto whose holy protection I commend you."[*]

* King James's Works, p. 227.

Monteagle knew not what to make of this letter; and though inclined to think it a foolish attempt to frighten and ridicule him, he judged it safest to carry it to Lord Salisbury, secretary of state. Though Salisbury, too, was inclined to pay little attention to it, he thought proper to lay it before the king, who came to town a few days after. To the king it appeared not so light a matter; and from the serious, earnest style of the letter, he conjectured that it implied something dangerous and important A "terrible blow," and yet "the authors concealed;" a danger so "sudden," and yet so "great;" these circumstances seemed all to denote some contrivance by gun powder; and it was thought advisable to inspect all the vaults below the houses of parliament. This care belonged to the earl of Suffolk, lord chamberlain, who purposely delayed the search till the day before the meeting of parliament. He remarked those great piles of wood and fagots which lay in the vault under the upper house; and he cast his eye upon Fawkes, who stood in a dark corner, and passed himself for Piercy's servant. That daring and determined courage which so much distinguished this conspirator, even among those heroes in villany, was fully painted in his countenance, and was not passed unnoticed by the chamberlain.[*] Such a quantity also of fuel, for the use of one who lived so little in town as Piercy, appeared a little extraordinary;[**] and upon comparing all circumstances, it was resolved that a more thorough inspection should be made. About midnight, Sir Thomas Knevet, a justice of peace, was sent with proper attendants; and before the door of the vault finding Fawkes, who had just finished all his preparations, he immediately seized him, and turning over the fagots, discovered the powder. The matches, and every thing proper for setting fire to the train, were taken in Fawkes's pocket; who, finding his guilt now apparent, and seeing no refuge but in boldness and despair, expressed the utmost regret that he had lost the opportunity of firing the powder at once, and of sweetening his own death by that of his enemies.[***] Before the council he displayed the same intrepid firmness, mixed even with scorn and disdain; refusing to discover his accomplices, and showing no concern but for the failure of the enterprise.[****] This obstinacy lasted two or three days: but being confined to the Tower, left to reflect on his guilt and danger, and the rack being just shown to him, his courage, fatigued with so long an effort, and unsupported by hope or society, at last failed him, and he made a full discovery of all the conspirators.[v]

* King James's Works, p. 229.

** King James's Works, p. 229.

*** King James's Works, p. 230.

**** Winwood, vol. ii. p. 173.

v King James's Works, p. 231.

Catesby, Piercy, and the other criminals who were in London, though they had heard of the alarm taken at a letter sent to Monteagle; though they had heard of the chamberlain's search; yet were resolved to persist to the utmost, and never abandon their hopes of success.[*] [50] But at last, hearing that Fawkes was arrested, they hurried down to Warwickshire; where Sir Everard Digby, thinking himself assured that success had attended his confederates, was already in arms, in order to seize the princess Elizabeth. She had escaped into Coventry; and they were obliged to put themselves on their defence against the country, who were raised from all quarters and armed by the sheriff. The conspirators, with all their attendants, never exceeded the number of eighty persons; and being surrounded on every side, could no longer entertain hopes either of prevailing or escaping. Having therefore confessed themselves, and received absolution, they boldly prepared for death, and resolved to sell their lives as dear as possible to the assailants. But even this miserable consolation was denied them. Some of their powder took fire, and disabled them for defence.[**] The people rushed in upon them. Piercy and Catesby were killed by one shot. Digby, Rookwood, Winter, and others, being taken prisoners, were tried, confessed their guilt, and died, as well as Garnet, by the hands of the executioner. Notwithstanding this horrid crime, the bigoted Catholics were so devoted to Garnet, that they fancied miracles to be wrought by his blood;[***] and in Spain he was regarded as a martyr.[****]

Neither had the desperate fortune of the conspirators urged them to this enterprise, nor had the former profligacy of their lives prepared them for so great a crime. Before that audacious attempt, their conduct seems, in general, to be liable to no reproach. Catesby's character had entitled him to such regard, that Rookwood and Digby were seduced by their implicit trust in his judgment; and they declared that, from the motive alone of friendship to him, they were ready, on any occasion, to have sacrificed their lives.[v] Digby himself was as highly esteemed and beloved as any man in England; and he had been particularly honored with the good opinion of Queen Elizabeth.

* See note XX, at the end of the volume.

** State Trials, vol. i. p. 199. Discourse of the Manner, etc. p. 69, 70.

*** Winwood, vol. ii. p. 300.

**** Winwood, vol. ii. p. 300.

v State Trials, vol. i. p. 201.

It was bigoted zeal alone, the most absurd of prejudices masked with reason, the most criminal of passions covered with the appearance of duty, which seduced them into measures that were fatal to themselves, and had so nearly proved fatal to their country.[*]

The lords Mordaunt and Stourton, two Catholics, were fined, the former ten thousand pounds, the latter four thousand, by the star chamber; because their absence from parliament had begotten a suspicion of their being acquainted with the conspiracy. The earl of Northumberland was fined thirty thousand pounds, and detained several years prisoner in the Tower, because, not to mention other grounds of suspicion, he had admitted Piercy into the number of gentlemen pensioners without his taking the requisite oaths.[**]

The king, in his speech to the parliament, observed that, though religion had engaged the conspirators in so criminal an attempt, yet ought we not to involve all the Roman Catholics in the same guilt, or suppose them equally disposed to commit such enormous barbarities. Many holy men, he said, and our ancestors among the rest, had been seduced to concur with that church in her scholastic doctrines, who yet had never admitted her seditious principles concerning the pope's power of dethroning kings, or sanctifying assassination. The wrath of Heaven is denounced against crimes, but innocent error may obtain its favor; and nothing can be more hateful than the uncharitableness of the Puritans, who condemn alike to eternal torments even the most inoffensive partisans of Popery. For his part, he added, that conspiracy, however atrocious, should never alter in the least his plan of government: while with one hand he punished guilt, with the other he would still support and protect innocence.[***] After this speech he prorogued the parliament till the twenty-second of January.[****]

* Digby, after his condemnation, said, in a letter to his wife, "Now for my intention, let me tell you, that if I had thought there had been the least sin in the plot, I would not have been of it for all the world; and no other cause drew me to hazard my fortune and life, but zeal to God's religion." He expresses his surprise to hear that any Catholics had condemned it. Digby's Papers, published by Secretary Coventry.

* Camden, in Kennet, p. 692.

* King James's Works, p. 503, 504.

* The parliament this session passed an act obliging every one to take the oath of allegiance; a very moderate test, since it decided no controverted points between the two religions, and only engaged the persons who took it to abjure the pope's power of dethroning kings. See King James's Works p. 250.

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