The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.I., Part D. - From Elizabeth to James I.
by David Hume
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The moderation, and, I may say, magnanimity of the king immediately after so narrow an escape from a most detestable conspiracy, was nowise agreeable to his subjects. Their animosity against Popery, even before this provocation, has risen to a great pitch; and it had perhaps been more prudent in James, by a little dissimulation, to have conformed himself to it. His theological learning, confirmed by disputation, has happily fixed his judgment in the Protestant faith; yet was his heart a little biased by the allurements of Rome; and he had been well pleased, if the making of some advances could have effected a union with that ancient mother church. He strove to abate the acrimony of his own subjects against the religion of their fathers: he became himself the object of their diffidence and aversion. Whatever measures he embraced—in Scotland to introduce prelacy, in England to enforce the authority of the established church, and support its rites and ceremonies—were interpreted as so many steps towards Popery; and were represented by the Puritans as symptoms of idolatry and superstition. Ignorant of the consequences, or unwilling to sacrifice to politics his inclination, which he called his conscience, he persevered in the same measures, and gave trust and preferment, almost indifferently, to his Catholic and Protestant subjects. And finding his person, as well as his title, less obnoxious to the church of Rome, than those of Elizabeth, he gradually abated the rigor of those laws which had been enacted against that church, and which were so acceptable to his bigoted subjects. But the effects of these dispositions on both sides became not very sensible till towards the conclusion of his reign.

{1606.} At this time, James seems to have possessed the affections even of his English subjects, and, in a tolerable degree, their esteem and regard. Hitherto their complaints were chiefly levelled against his too great constancy in his early friendships; a quality which, had it been attended with more economy, the wise would have excused, and the candid would even, perhaps, have applauded. His parts, which were not despicable, and his learning, which was great, being highly extolled by his courtiers and gownmen, and not yet tried in the management of any delicate affairs, for which he was unfit, raised a high idea of him in the world; nor was it always through flattery or insincerity that he received the title of the second Solomon. A report, which was suddenly spread about this time of his being assassinated, visibly struck a great consternation into all orders of men.[*] The commons also abated, this session, somewhat of their excessive frugality, and granted him an aid, payable in four years, of three subsidies and six fifteenths, which, Sir Francis Bacon said in the house,[**] might amount to about four hundred thousand pounds; and for once the king and parliament parted in friendship and good humor. The hatred which the Catholics so visibly bore him, gave him, at this time, an additional value in the eyes of his people. The only considerable point in which the commons incurred his displeasure, was by discovering their constant good will to the Puritans, in whose favor they desired a conference with the lords;[***] which was rejected.

The chief affair transacted next session, was the intended union of the two kingdoms.[****] Nothing could exceed the king's passion and zeal for this noble enterprise, but the parliament's prejudice and reluctance against it. There remain two excellent speeches in favor of the union, which it would not be improper to compare together; that of the king,[v] and that of Sir Francis Bacon. Those who affect in every thing such an extreme contempt for James, will be surprised to find that his discourse, both for good reasoning and elegant composition, approaches very near that of a man who was undoubtedly, at that time, one of the greatest geniuses in Europe. A few trivial indiscretions and indecorums may be said to characterize the harangue of the monarch, and mark it for his own. And, in general, so open and avowed a declaration in favor of a measure, while he had taken no care, by any precaution or intrigue, to insure success, may safely be pronounced an indiscretion. But the art of managing parliaments by private interest or cabal, being found hitherto of little use or necessity, had not as yet become a part of English politics. In the common course of affairs, government could be conducted without their assistance; and when their concurrence became necessary to the measures of the crown, it was, generally speaking, except in times of great faction and discontent, obtained without much difficulty.

* Kennet, p. 696.

** Journ. 20th May, 1606

*** Journ. 5th April, 1606.

**** Kennet, p 676.

v King James's Works, p. 509.

The king's influence seems to have rendered the Scottish parliament cordial in all the steps which they took towards the union. Though the advantages which Scotland might hope from that measure were more considerable, yet were the objections too, with regard to that kingdom more striking and obvious. The benefit which must have resulted to England, both by accession of strength and security, was riot despicable; and as the English were by far the greater nation, and possessed the seat of government, the objections, either from the point of honor or from jealousy, could not reasonably have any place among them. The English parliament, indeed, seem to have been swayed merely by the vulgar motive of national antipathy. And they persisted so obstinately in their prejudices, that all the efforts for a thorough union and incorporation ended only in the abolition of the hostile laws formerly enacted between the kingdoms.[*]

* The commons were even so averse to the union, that they had complained in the former session, to the lords, of the bishop of Bristol, for writing a book in favor of it; and the prelate was obliged to make submissions for this offence. The crime imputed to him seems to have consisted in his treating of a subject which lay before the parliament: so little notion had they as yet of general liberty. See Parliamentary History, vol. v. p 108, 109, 110

Some precipitate steps, which the king, a little after his accession, had taken, in order to promote his favorite project, had been here observed to do more injury than service. From his own authority, he had assumed the title of king of Great Britain; and had quartered the arms of Scotland with those of England, in all coins, flags, and ensigns. He had also engaged the judges to make a declaration, that all those who, after the union of the crowns, should be born in either kingdom, were, for that reason alone, naturalized in both. This was a nice question, and, according to the ideas of those times, susceptible of subtle reasoning on both sides. The king was the same: the parliaments were different. To render the people therefore the same, we must suppose that the sovereign authority resided chiefly in the prince, and that these popular assemblies were rather instituted to assist with money and advice, than endowed with any controlling or active powers in the government. "It is evident," says Bacon, in his pleadings on this subject, "that all other commonwealths, monarchies only excepted, do subsist by a law precedent. For where authority is divided amongst many officers, and they not perpetual, but annual or temporary, and not to receive their authority but by election, and certain persons to have voices only in that election, and the like; these are busy and curious frames, which of necessity do presuppose a law precedent, written or unwritten, to guide and direct them: but in monarchies, especially hereditary, that is, when several families or lineages of people do submit themselves to one line, imperial or royal, the submission is more natural and simple; which afterwards, by law subsequent, is perfected, and made more formal; but that is grounded upon nature."[*] It would seem, from this reasoning, that the idea of an hereditary limited monarchy, though implicitly supposed in many public transactions, had scarcely ever as yet been expressly formed by any English lawyer or politician.

Except the obstinacy of the parliament with regard to the union, and an attempt on the king's ecclesiastical jurisdiction,[*] most of their measures, during this session, were sufficiently respectful and obliging; though they still discover a vigilant spirit, and a careful attention towards national liberty. The votes also of the commons show that the house contained a mixture of Puritans, who had acquired great authority among them,[**] and who, together with religious prejudices, were continually suggesting ideas more suitable to a popular than a monarchical form of government. The natural appetite for rule made the commons lend a willing ear to every doctrine which tended to augment their own power and influence.

{1607.} A petition was moved in the lower house for a more rigorous execution of the laws against Popish recusants and an abatement towards Protestant clergymen who scrupled to observe the ceremonies. Both these points were equally unacceptable to the king; and he sent orders to the house to proceed no further in that matter. The commons were inclined, at first, to consider these orders as a breach of privilege; but they soon acquiesced, when told that this measure of the king's was supported by many precedents during the reign of Elizabeth.[***] Had they been always disposed to make the precedents of that reign the rule of their conduct, they needed never have had any quarrel with any of their monarchs.

The complaints of Spanish depredations were very loud among the English merchants.[****] The lower house sent a message to the lords, desiring a conference with them, in order to their presenting a joint petition to the king on the subject.

* Bacon's Works, vol. iv. p. 190, 191, edit. 1730.

** Journ. 2d December; 5th March, 1606. 25th, 26th June, 1607.

*** Journ. 26th February; 4th, 7th March, 1606. 2d May; 17th June, 1607.

****Journ. 16th, 17th June, 1607.

The lords took some time to deliberate on this message; because, they said, the matter was weighty and rare. It probably occurred to them, at first, that the parliament's interposing in affairs of state would appear unusual and extraordinary. And to show that in this sentiment they were not guided by court influence, after they had deliberated, they agreed to the conference.

The house of commons began now to feel themselves of such importance, that, on the motion of Sir Edwin Sandys, a member of great authority, they entered, for the first time, an order for the regular keeping of their journals.[*] When all business was finished, the king prorogued the parliament.

* Journ. 3d July, 1607.

About this time there was an insurrection of the country people in Northamptonshire, headed by one Reynolds, a man of low condition. They went about destroying enclosures; but carefully avoided committing any other outrage. This insurrection was easily suppressed; and, though great lenity was used towards the rioters, yet were some of the ringleaders punished. The chief cause of that trivial commotion seems to have been, of itself, far from trivial. The practice still continued in England of disusing tillage and throwing the land into enclosures, for the sake of pasture. By this means the kingdom was depopulated, at least prevented from increasing so much in people as might have been expected from the daily increase of industry and commerce.

{1608.} Next year presents us with nothing memorable; but in the spring of the subsequent,

{1609.} after a long negotiation, was concluded, by a truce of twelve years, that war which, for near half a century, had been carried on with such fury between Spain and the states of the United Provinces. Never contest seemed, at first, more unequal; never contest was finished with more honor to the weaker party. On the side of Spain were numbers, riches, authority, discipline: on the side of the revolted provinces were found the attachment to liberty and the enthusiasm of religion. By her naval enterprises, the republic maintained her armies; and, joining peaceful industry to military valor, she was enabled, by her own force, to support herself, and gradually rely less on those neighboring princes, who, from jealousy to Spain, were at first prompted to encourage her revolt. Long had the pride of that monarchy prevailed over her interest, and prevented her from hearkening to any terms of accommodation with her rebellious subjects. But finding all intercourse cut off between her provinces by the maritime force of the states, she at last agreed to treat with them as a free people, and solemnly to renounce all claim and pretension to their sovereignty.

This chief point being gained, the treaty was easily brought to a conclusion, under the joint mediation and guaranty of France and England. All exterior appearances of honor were paid equally to both crowns: but very different were the sentiments which the states, as well as all Europe, entertained of the princes who wore them. Frugality and vigor, the chief circumstances which procure regard among foreign nations, shone out as conspicuously in Henry as they were deficient in James. To a contempt of the English monarch, Henry seems to have added a considerable degree of jealousy and aversion, which were sentiments altogether without foundation. James was just and fair in all transactions with his allies;[*] but it appears from the memoirs of those times, that each side deemed him partial towards their adversary, and fancied that he had entered into secret measures against them;[**] so little equity have men in their judgments of their own affairs; and so dangerous is that entire neutrality affected by the king of England!

{1610.} The little concern which James took in foreign affairs, renders the domestic occurrences, particularly those of parliament, the most interesting of his reign. A new session was held this spring; the king, full of hopes of receiving supply; the commons, of circumscribing his prerogative. The earl of Salisbury, now created treasurer on the death of the earl of Dorset, laid open the king's necessities, first to the peers, then to a committee of the lower house.[***]

* The plan of accommodation which James recommended is found in Winwood, (vol. ii. p. 429, 430,) and is the same that was recommended by Henry, as we learn from Jeanin, (tom. iii. p. 416, 417.) It had long been imagined by historians, from Jeanin's authority, that James had declared to the court of Spain, that he would not support the Dutch in their pretensions to liberty and independence. But it has since been discovered by Winwood's Memorials, (vol. ii. p. 456, 466, 469, 475, 476,) that that report was founded on a lie of President Richardot's.

** Winwood and Jeanin, passim.

*** Journ. 17th Feb. 1609. Kennet, p. 681.

He insisted on the unavoidable expense incurred in supporting the navy, and in suppressing a late insurrection in Ireland: he mentioned three numerous courts which the king was obliged to maintain, for himself, for the queen, and for the prince of Wales: he observed that Queen Elizabeth, though a single woman, had received very large supplies in the years preceding her death, which alone were expensive to her: and he remarked, that during her reign she had alienated many of the crown lands; an expedient which, though it supplied her present necessities, without laying burdens on her people, extremely multiplied the necessities of her successor. From all these causes he thought it nowise strange that the king's income should fall short so great a sum as eighty-one thousand pounds of his stated and regular expense; without mentioning contingencies, which ought always to be esteemed a fourth of the yearly charges. And as the crown was now necessarily burdened with a great and urgent debt of three hundred thousand pounds, he thence inferred the absolute necessity of an immediate and large supply from the people. To all these reasons, which James likewise urged in a speech addressed to both houses, the commons remained inexorable. But not to shock the king with an absolute refusal, they granted him one subsidy and one fifteenth; which would scarcely amount to a hundred thousand pounds. And James received the mortification of discovering in vain all his wants, and of begging aid of subjects who had no reasonable indulgence or consideration for him.

Among the many causes of disgust and quarrel which now daily and unavoidably multiplied between prince and parliament, this article of money is to be regarded as none of the least considerable. After the discovery and conquest of the West Indies, gold and silver became every day more plentiful in England, as well as in the rest of Europe; and the price of all commodities and provisions rose to a height beyond what had been known since the declension of the Roman empire. As the revenue of the crown rose not in proportion,[*] the prince was insensibly reduced to poverty amidst the general riches of his subjects, and required additional funds in order to support the same magnificence and force which had been maintained by former monarchs. But, while money thus flowed into England, we may observe, that, at the same time, and probably from that very cause, arts and industry of all kinds received a mighty increase; and elegance in every enjoyment of life became better known and more cultivated among all ranks of people.

* Besides the great alienation of the crown lands, the fee- farm rents never increased, and the other lands were let on long leases and at a great undervalue, little or nothing above the old rent.

The king's servants, both civil and military, his courtiers, his ministers, demanded more ample supplies from the impoverished prince, and were not contented with the same simplicity of living which had satisfied their ancestors. The prince himself began to regard an increase of pomp and splendor as requisite to support the dignity of his character, and to preserve the same superiority above his subjects which his predecessors had enjoyed. Some equality, too, and proportion to the other sovereigns of Europe, it was natural for him to desire; and as they had universally enlarged their revenue, and multiplied their taxes, the king of England deemed it reasonable that his subjects, who were generally as rich as theirs, should bear with patience some additional burdens and impositions.

Unhappily for the king, those very riches, with the increasing knowledge of the age, bred opposite sentiments in his subjects; and, begetting a spirit of freedom and independence, disposed them to pay little regard either to the entreaties or menaces of their sovereign. While the barons possessed their former immense property and extensive jurisdictions, they were apt, at every disgust, to endanger the monarch, and throw the whole government into confusion; but this confusion often, in its turn, proved favorable to the monarch, and made the nation again submit to him, in order to reestablish justice and tranquillity. After the power of alienations, as well as the increase of commerce, had thrown the balance of property into the hands of the commons, the situation of affairs, and the dispositions of men, became susceptible of a more regular plan of liberty; and the laws were not supported singly by the authority of the sovereign. And though in that interval, after the decline of the peers, and before the people had yet experienced their force, the princes assumed an exorbitant power, and had almost annihilated the constitution under the weight of their prerogative; as soon as the commons recovered from their lethargy, they seem to have been astonished at the danger, and were resolved to secure liberty by firmer barriers than their ancestors had hitherto provided for it.

Had James possessed a very rigid frugality, he might have warded off this crisis somewhat longer; and waiting patiently for a favorable opportunity to increase and fix his revenue, might have secured the extensive authority transmitted to him. On the other hand, had the commons been inclined to act with more generosity and kindness towards their prince, they might probably have turned his necessities to good account, and have bribed him to depart peaceably from the more dangerous articles of his prerogative. But he was a foreigner, and ignorant of the arts of popularity; they were soured by religious prejudices, and tenacious of their money: and in this situation it is no wonder, that during this whole reign we scarcely find an interval of mutual confidence and friendship between prince and parliament.

The king, by his prerogative alone, had some years before altered the rates of the customs, and had established higher impositions on several kinds of merchandise. This exercise of power will naturally, to us, appear arbitrary and illegal; yet, according to the principles and practices of that time, it might admit of some apology. The duties of tonnage and poundage were at first granted to the crown by a vote of parliament, and for a limited time; and as the grant frequently expired and was renewed, there could not then arise any doubt concerning the origin of the king's right to levy these duties; and this imposition, like all others, was plainly derived from the voluntary consent of the people. But as Henry V., and all the succeeding sovereigns, had the revenue conferred on them for life, the prince, so long in possession of these duties, began gradually to consider them as his own proper right and inheritance, and regarded the vote of parliament as a mere formality, which rather expressed the acquiescence of the people in his prerogative, than bestowed any new gift or revenue upon him.

The parliament, when it first granted poundage to the crown, had fixed no particular rates: the imposition was given as a shilling in a pound, or five percent, on all commodities: it was left to the king himself and the privy council, aided by the advice of such merchants as they should think proper to consult, to fix the value of goods, and thereby the rates of the customs: and as that value had been settled before the discovery of the West Indies, it was become much inferior to the prices which almost all commodities bore in every market in Europe; and consequently the customs on many goods, though supposed to be five per cent., was in reality much inferior. The king, therefore, was naturally led to think, that rates which were now plainly false, ought to be corrected;[*] that a valuation of commodities, fixed by one act of the privy council, might be amended by another; that if his right to poundage were inherent in the crown, he should also possess, of himself, the right of correcting its inequalities; if this duty were granted by the people, he should at least support the spirit of the law, by fixing a new and a juster valuation of all commodities. But, besides this reasoning, which seems plausible, if not solid, the king was supported in that act of power by direct precedents, some in the reign of Mary, some in the beginning of Elizabeth.[**] Both these princesses had, without consent of parliament, altered the rates of commodities; and as their impositions had all along been submitted to without a murmur, and still continued to be levied, the king had no reason to apprehend that a further exertion of the same authority would give any occasion of complaint. That less umbrage might be taken, he was moderate in the new rates which he established: the customs, during his whole reign, rose only from one hundred and twenty-seven thousand pounds a year to one hundred and ninety thousand; though, besides the increase of the rates, there was a sensible increase of commerce and industry during that period: every commodity, besides, which might serve to the subsistence of the people, or might be considered as a material of manufactures, was exempted from the new impositions of James;[***] but all this caution could not prevent the complaints of the commons.

* Winwood, vol. ii. p. 438.

** Journ. 18th April; 5th and 10th May, 1614, etc.; 20th February 1625. See also Sir John Davis's Question concerning Impositions. p. 127, 128.

*** Sir John Davis's Question concerning Impositions.

A spirit of liberty had now taken possession of the house: the leading members, men of an independent genius and large views, began to regulate their opinions more by the future consequences which they foresaw, than by the former precedents which were set before them; and they less aspired at maintaining the ancient constitution, than at establishing a new one, and a freer, and a better. In their remonstrances to the king on this occasion, they observed it to be a general opinion, "That the reasons of that practice might be extended much further, even to the utter ruin of the ancient liberty of the kingdom, and the subjects' right of property in their lands and goods."[*] Though expressly forbidden by the king to touch his prerogative, they passed a bill abolishing these impositions; which was rejected by the house of lords.

In another address to the king, they objected to the practice of borrowing upon privy seals, and desired that the subjects should not be forced to lend money to his majesty, nor give a reason for their refusal. Some murmurs likewise were thrown out in the house against a new monopoly of the license of wines.[**] It must be confessed, that forced loans and monopolies were established on many and ancient as well as recent precedents; though diametrically opposite to all the principles of a free government.[***] [51]

The house likewise discovered some discontent against the king's proclamations. James told them, "That though he well knew, by the constitution and policy of the kingdom, that proclamations were not of equal force with laws, yet he thought it a duty incumbent on him, and a power inseparably annexed to the crown, to restrain and prevent such mischiefs and inconveniencies as he saw growing on the state, against which no certain law was extant, and which might tend to the great detriment of the subject, if there should be no remedy provided till the meeting of a parliament. And this prerogative," he adds, "our progenitors have in all times used and enjoyed."[****] The intervals between sessions, we may observe, were frequently so long as to render it necessary for a prince to interpose by his prerogative. The legality of this exertion was established by uniform and undisputed practice; and was even acknowledged by lawyers, who made, however, this difference between laws and proclamations, that the authority of the former was perpetual, that of the latter expired with the sovereign who emitted them.[v] But what the authority could be which bound the subject, yet was different from the authority of laws, and inferior to it, seems inexplicable by any maxims of reason or politics: and in this instance, as in many others, it is easy to see how inaccurate the English constitution was, before the parliament was enabled, by continued acquisitions or encroachments, to establish it on fixed principles of liberty.

* Journ. 28th May, 1610.

** Parliament. Hist. vol. v. p. 241.

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

**** Parliament. Hist. vol. v. p. 250.

v Journ. 12th May, 1624.

Upon the settlement of the reformation, that extensive branch of power which regards ecclesiastical matters, being then without an owner, seemed to belong to the first occupant; and Henry VIII. failed not immediately to seize it, and to exert it even to the utmost degree of tyranny. The possession of it was continued with Edward, and recovered by Elizabeth; and that ambitious princess was so remarkably jealous of this flower of her crown, that she severely reprimanded the parliament if they ever presumed to intermeddle in these matters; and they were so overawed by her authority as to submit, and to ask pardon on these occasions. But James's parliaments were much less obsequious. They ventured to lift up their eyes, and to consider this prerogative. They there saw a large province of government, possessed by the king alone, and scarcely ever communicated with the parliament. They were sensible that this province admitted not of any exact boundary or circumscription. They had felt that the Roman pontiff, in former ages, under pretence of religion, was gradually making advances to usurp the whole civil power. They dreaded still more dangerous consequences from the claims of their own sovereign, who resided among them, and who, in many other respects, possessed such unlimited authority. They therefore deemed it absolutely necessary to circumscribe this branch of prerogative; and accordingly, in the preceding session, they passed a bill against the establishment of any ecclesiastical canons without consent of parliament.[*] But the house of lords, as is usual, defended the barriers of the throne, and rejected the bill.

In this session, the commons, after passing anew the same bill, made remonstrances against the proceedings of the high commission court.[**] It required no great penetration to see the extreme danger to liberty, arising in a regal government, from such large discretionary powers as were exercised by that court. But James refused compliance with the application of the commons. He was probably sensible that, besides the diminution of his authority, many inconveniencies must necessarily result from the abolishing of all discretionary power in every magistrate; and that the laws, were they ever so carefully framed and digested, could not possibly provide against every contingency; much less, where they had not as yet attained a sufficient degree of accuracy and refinement.

* Journ. 2d, 11th December; 5th March, 1606.

** Parliament. Hist. vol. v. p. 247. Kennet, p. 681.

But the business which chiefly occupied the commons during this session, was the abolition of wardships and purveyance; prerogatives which had been more or less touched on every session during the whole reign of James. In this affair the commons employed the proper means which might entitle them to success: they offered the king a settled revenue, as an equivalent for the powers which he should part with; and the king was willing to hearken to terms. After much dispute, he agreed to give up these prerogatives for two hundred thousand pounds a year, which they agreed to confer upon him.[*] And nothing remained towards closing the bargain, but that the commons should determine the funds by which this sum should be levied. This session was too far advanced to bring so difficult a matter to a full conclusion; and though the parliament met again towards the end of the year, and resumed the question, they were never able to terminate an affair upon which they seemed so intent. The journals of that session are lost; and as the historians of this reign are very negligent in relating parliamentary affairs, of whose importance they were not sufficiently apprised, we know not exactly the reason of this failure. It only appears, that the king was extremely dissatisfied with the conduct of the parliament, and soon after dissolved it. This was his first parliament, and it sat near seven years.

* We learn from Winwood's Memorials (vol. ii. p. 193) the reason assigned for this particular sum. "From thence my lord treasurer came to the price; and here he said, that the king would no more rise and fall like a merchant. That he would not have a flower of his crown (meaning the court of wards) so much tossed; that it was too dainty to be so handled; and then he said, that he must deliver the very countenance and character of the king's mind out of his own handwriting; which before he read, he said he would acquaint us with a pleasant conceit of his majesty. As concerning the number of ninescore thousand pounds, which was our number, he could not affect, because nine was the number of the poets, who were always beggars, though they served so many muses; and eleven was the number of the apostles, when the traitor Judas was away; and therefore might best be affected by his majesty: but there was a mean number, which might accord us both; and that was ten: which, says my lord treasurer, is a sacred number; for so many were God's commandments, which tend to virtue and edification." If the commons really voted twenty thousand pounds a year more, on account of this "pleasant conceit" of the king and the treasurer, it was certainly the best paid wit, for its goodness, that ever was in the world.

Amidst all these attacks, some more, some less violent, on royal prerogative, the king displayed, as openly as ever, all his exalted notions of monarchy and the authority of princes. Even in a speech to the parliament where he begged for supply, and where he should naturally have used every art to ingratiate himself with that assembly, he expressed himself in these terms: "I conclude, then, the point touching the power of kings, with this axiom of divinity, that, as to dispute what God may do, is blasphemy; but what God wills, that divines may lawfully and do ordinarily dispute and discuss. So is it sedition in subjects to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power. But just kings will ever be willing to declare what they will do, if they will not incur the curse of God. I will not be content that my power be disputed upon; but I shall ever be willing to make the reason appear of my doings, and rule my actions according to my laws."[*] Notwithstanding the great extent of prerogative in that age, these expressions would probably give some offence. But we may observe, that, as the king's despotism was more speculative than practical, so the independency of the commons was, at this time, the reverse; and, though strongly supported by their present situation, as well as disposition, was too new and recent to be as yet founded on systematical principles and opinions.[**] [52]

This year was distinguished by a memorable event, which gave great alarm and concern in England; the murder of the French monarch by the poniard of the fanatical Ravaillac. With his death, the glory of the French monarchy suffered an eclipse for some years; and as that kingdom fell under an administration weak and bigoted, factious and disorderly, the Austrian greatness began anew to appear formidable to Europe. In England, the antipathy to the Catholics revived a little upon this tragical event; and some of the laws which had formerly been enacted, in order to keep these religionists in awe, began now to be executed with greater rigor and severity.[***]

* King James's Works, p. 531.

** See note ZZ at the end of the volume.

*** Kennet, p. 684.

{1611.} Though James's timidity and indolence fixed him, during most of his reign, in a very prudent inattention to foreign affairs, there happened this year an event in Europe of such mighty consequence as to rouse him from his lethargy, and summon up all his zeal and enterprise. A professor of divinity, named Vorstius, the disciple of Arminius was called from a German to a Dutch university; and as he differed from his Britannic majesty in some nice questions concerning the intimate essence and secret decrees of God, he was considered as a dangerous rival in scholastic fame, and was at last obliged to yield to the legions of that royal doctor, whose syllogisms he might have refuted or eluded. If vigor was wanting in other incidents of James's reign, here he behaved even with haughtiness and insolence; and the states were obliged, after several remonstrances, to deprive Vorstius of his chair, and to banish him their dominions.[*] The king carried no further his animosity against that professor; though he had very charitably hinted to the states, "That, as to the burning of Vorstius for his blasphemies and atheism, he left them to their own Christian wisdom; but surely never heretic better deserved the flames."[**] It is to be remarked, that, at this period, all over Europe, except in Holland alone, the practice of burning heretics still prevailed, even in Protestant countries; and instances were not wanting in England during the reign of James.

To consider James in a more advantageous light, we must take a view of him as the legislator of Ireland; and most of the institutions which he had framed for civilizing that kingdom being finished about this period, it may not here be improper to give some account of them. He frequently boasts of the management of Ireland as his masterpiece; and it will appear, upon inquiry, that his vanity in this particular was not altogether without foundation.

After the subjection of Ireland by Elizabeth, the more difficult task still remained; to civilize the inhabitants, to reconcile them to laws and industry, and to render their subjection durable and useful to the crown of England. James proceeded in this work by a steady, regular, and well-concerted plan; and in the space of nine years, according to Sir John Davis, he made greater advances towards the reformation of that kingdom, than had been made in the four hundred and forty years which had elapsed since the conquest was first attempted.[***]

* Kennet, p. 715.

** King James's Works, p. 355.

*** King James's Works, p. 259, edit. 1613.

It was previously necessary to abolish the Irish customs, which supplied the place of laws, and which were calculated to keep that people forever in a state of barbarism and disorder.

By the "Brehon" law or custom, every crime, however enormous, was punished, not with death, but by a fine or pecuniary mulct, which was levied upon the criminal. Murder itself, as among all the ancient barbarous nations, was atoned for in this manner; and each man, according to his rank, had a different rate or value affixed to him, which if any one were willing to pay, he needed not fear assassinating his enemy. This rate was called his "eric." When Sir William Fitzwilliams, being lord deputy, told Maguire, that he was to send a sheriff into Fermannah, which a little before had been made a county, and subjected to the English law; "Your sheriff," said Maguire, "shall be welcome to me: but let me know, beforehand, his eric, or the price of his head, that, if my people cut it off, I may levy the money upon the county."[*] As for oppression, extortion, and other trespasses, so little were they regarded, that no penalty was affixed to them, and no redress for such offences could ever be obtained.

The customs of "gavelkinde" and "tanistry" were attended with the same absurdity in the distribution of property.

{1612.} The land, by the custom of gavelkinde, was divided among all the males of the sept, or family, both bastard and legitimate: and, after partition made if any of the sept died, his portion was not shared out among his sons, but the chieftain, at his discretion, made a new partition of all the lands belonging to that sept, and gave every one his share.[**] As no man, by reason of this custom, enjoyed the fixed property of any land; to build, to plant, to enclose, to cultivate, to improve, would have been so much lost labor.

The chieftains and the tanists, though drawn from the principal families, were not hereditary, but were established by election, or, more properly speaking, by force and violence. Their authority was almost absolute; and, notwithstanding that certain lands were assigned to the office, its chief profit resulted from exactions, dues, assessments, for which there was no fixed law, and which were levied at pleasure.[***]

* Sir John Davis, p. 166.

** Sir John Davis, p. 167

*** Sir John Davis, p. 173

Hence arose that common by-word among the Irish, "That they dwelt westward of the law which dwelt beyond the river of the Barrow;" meaning the country where the English inhabited, and which extended not beyond the compass of twenty miles, lying in the neighborhood of Dublin.[*]

After abolishing these Irish customs, and substituting English law in their place, James, having taken all the natives under his protection, and declared them free citizens, proceeded to govern them by a regular administration, military at well as civil.

A small army was maintained, its discipline inspected, and its pay transmitted from England, in order to keep the soldiers from preying upon the country, as had been usual in former reigns. When Odoghartie raised an insurrection, a reenforcement was sent over, and the flames of that rebellion were immediately extinguished.

All minds being first quieted by a general indemnity,[**] circuits were established, justice administered, oppression banished, and crimes and disorders of every kind severely punished.[***] As the Irish had been universally engaged in the rebellion against Elizabeth, a resignation of all the rights which had been formerly granted them to separate jurisdictions, was rigorously exacted; and no authority, but that of the king and the law, was permitted throughout the kingdom.[****]

A resignation of all private estates was even required; and when they were restored, the proprietors received them under such conditions as might prevent, for the future, all tyranny and oppression over the common people. The value of the dues which the nobles usually claimed from their vassals, was estimated at a fixed sum, and all further arbitrary exactions prohibited under severe penalties.[v]

The whole province of Ulster having fallen to the crown by the attainder of rebels, a company was established in London for planting new colonies in that fertile country: the property was divided into moderate shares, the largest not exceeding two thousand acres: tenants were brought over from England and Scotland: the Irish were removed from the hills and fastnesses, and settled in the open country: husbandry and the arts were taught them: a fixed habitation secured: plunder and robbery punished: and by these means, Ulster, from being the most wild and disorderly province of all Ireland, soon became the best cultivated and most civilized.v

* Sir John Davis, p. 237.

** Sir John Davis, p. 263.

*** Sir John Davis, p. 264, 265, etc

**** Sir John Davis, p. 276.

v Sir John Davis, p. 278.

Such were the arts by which James introduced humanity and justice among a people who had ever been buried in the most profound barbarism. Noble cares! much superior to the vain and criminal glory of conquests; but requiring ages of perseverance and attention to perfect what had been so happily begun.

A laudable act of justice was about this time executed in England upon Lord Sanqubir, a Scottish nobleman, who had been guilty of the base assassination of Turner, a fencing master. The English nation, who were generally dissatisfied with the Scots, were enraged at this crime, equally mean and atrocious; but James appeased them, by preferring the severity of law to the intercession of the friends and family of the criminal.[*]

* Kennet, p. 688.



{1612.} This year the sudden death of Henry, prince of Wales, diffused a universal grief throughout the nation. Though youth and royal birth, both of them strong allurements, prepossess men mightily in favor of the early age of princes, it is with peculiar fondness that historians mention Henry, and, in every respect, his merit seems to have been extraordinary. He had not reached his eighteenth year, and he already possessed more dignity in his behavior, and commanded more respect, than his father, with all his age, learning, and experience. Neither his high fortune, nor his youth, had seduced him into any irregular pleasures: business and ambition seem to have been his sole passion. His inclinations, as well as exercises, were martial. The French ambassador, taking leave of him, and asking his commands for France, found him employed in the exercise of the pike: "Tell your king," said he, "in what occupation you left me engaged."[*] He had conceived great affection and esteem for the brave Sir Walter Raleigh. It was his saying, "Sure no king but my father would keep such a bird in a cage."[**]

* The French monarch had given particular orders to his ministers to cultivate the prince's friendship; who must soon, said he, have chief authority in England, where the king and queen are held in so little estimation. See Dep. de la Boderie, vol. i. p. 402, 415; vol. ii p. 16, 349.

** Coke's Detection, p. 37.

He seems indeed to have nourished too violent a contempt for the king, on account of his pedantry and pusillanimity; and by that means struck in with the restless and martial spirit of the English nation. Had he lived, he had probably promoted the glory, perhaps not the felicity, of his people. The unhappy prepossession which men commonly entertain in favor of ambition, courage, enterprise, and other warlike virtues, engages generous natures, who always love fame, in such pursuits all destroy their own peace, and that of the rest of mankind.

Violent reports were propagated, as if Henry had been carried off by poison; but the physicians, on opening his body, found no symptoms to confirm such an opinion.[*] The bold and criminal malignity of men's tongues and pens spared not even the king on the occasion. But that prince's character seems rather to have failed in the extreme of facility and humanity, than in that of cruelty and violence. His indulgence to Henry was great, and perhaps imprudent, by giving him a large and independent settlement, even in so early youth.

* Kennet, p. 690. Coke, p. 37. Welwood, p. 272

{1613.} The marriage of the princess Elizabeth with Frederic, elector palatine, was finished some time after the death of the prince, and served to dissipate the grief which arose on that melancholy event. But this marriage, though celebrated with great joy and festivity, proved itself an unhappy event to the king, as well as to his son-in-law, and had ill consequences on the reputation and fortunes of both. The elector, trusting to so great an alliance, engaged in enterprises beyond his strength: and the king, not being able to support him in his distress, lost entirely, in the end of his life, what remained of the affections and esteem of his own subjects.

Except during sessions of parliament, the history of this reign may more properly be called the history of the court, than that of the nation. An interesting object had for some years engaged the attention of the court; it was a favorite, and one beloved by James with so profuse and unlimited an affection, as left no room for any rival or competitor. About the end of the year 1609, Robert Carre, a youth of twenty years of age, and of a good family in Scotland, arrived in London, after having passed some time in his travels. All his natural accomplishments consisted in good looks: all his acquired abilities in an easy air and graceful demeanor. He had letters of recommendation to his countryman Lord Hay; and that nobleman no sooner cast his eye upon him, than he discovered talents sufficient to entitle him immediately to make a great figure in the government. Apprised of the king's passion for youth and beauty, and exterior appearance, he studied how matters might be so managed that this new object should make the strongest impression upon him. Without mentioning him at court, he assigned him the office, at a match of tilting, of presenting to the king his buckler and device; and hoped that he would attract the attention of the monarch. Fortune proved favorable to his design, by an incident which bore at first a contrary aspect. When Carre was advancing to execute his office, his unruly horse flung him, and broke his leg in the king's presence. James approached him with pity and concern: love and affection arose on the sight of his beauty and tender years; and the prince ordered him immediately to be lodged in the palace, and to be carefully attended. He himself, after the tilting, paid him a visit in his chamber, and frequently returned during his confinement. The ignorance and simplicity of the boy finished the conquest begun by his exterior graces and accomplishments. Other princes have been fond of choosing their favorites from among the lower ranks of their subjects, and have reposed themselves on them with the more unreserved confidence and affection, because the object has been beholden to their bounty for every honor and acquisition: James was desirous that his favorite should also derive from him all his sense, experience, and knowledge. Highly conceited of his own wisdom, he pleased himself with the fancy, that this raw youth, by his lessons and instructions, would, in a little time, be equal to his sagest ministers, and be initiated into all the profound mysteries of government, on which he set so high a value. And as this kind of creation was more perfectly his own work than any other, he seems to have indulged an unlimited fondness for his minion, beyond even that which he bore to his own children. He soon knighted him, created him Viscount Rochester, gave him the garter, brought him into the privy council, and, though at first without assigning him any particular office, bestowed on him the supreme direction of all his business and political concerns. Agreeable to this rapid advancement in confidence and honor, were the riches heaped upon the needy favorite; and while Salisbury and all the wisest ministers could scarcely find expedients sufficient to keep in motion the overburdened machine of government, James, with unsparing hand, loaded with treasures this insignificant and useless pageant.[*]

* Kennet, p. 685, 686, etc.

It is said, that the king found his pupil so ill educated as to be ignorant even of the lowest rudiments of the Latin tongue; and that the monarch, laying aside the sceptre, took the birch into his royal hand, and instructed him in the principles of grammar. During the intervals of this noble occupation, affairs of state, would be introduced; and the stripling, by the ascendant which he had acquired, was now enabled to repay on political, what he had received in grammatical instruction. Such scenes, and such incidents, are the more ridiculous, though the less odious, as the passion of James seems not to have contained in it any thing criminal or flagitious. History charges herself willingly with a relation of the great crimes, and still more with that of the great virtues, of mankind; but she appears to fall from her dignity, when necessitated to dwell on such frivolous events and ignoble personages.

The favorite was not, at first, so intoxicated with advancement, as not to be sensible of his own ignorance and inexperience. He had recourse to the assistance and advice of a friend; and he was more fortunate in his choice than is usual with such pampered minions. In Sir Thomas Overbury he met with a judicious and sincere counsellor; who, building all hopes of his own preferment on that of the young favorite, endeavored to instil into him the principles of prudence and discretion. By zealously serving every body, Carre was taught to abate the envy which might attend his sudden elevation: by showing a preference for the English, he learned to escape the prejudices which prevailed against his country. And so long as he was content to be ruled by Overbury's friendly counsels, he enjoyed—what is rare—the highest favor of the prince, without being hated by the people.

To complete the measure of courtly happiness, nought was wanting but a kind mistress; and, where high fortune concurred with all the graces of youth and beauty, this circumstance could not be difficult to attain. But it was here that the favorite met with that rock on which all his fortunes were wrecked, and which plunged him forever into an abyss of infamy, guilt, and misery.

No sooner had James mounted the throne of England, than he remembered his friendship for the unfortunate families of Howard and Devereux, who had suffered for their attachment to the cause of Mary and to his own. Having restored young Essex to his blood and dignity, and conferred the titles of Suffolk and Northampton on two brothers of the house of Norfolk, he sought the further pleasure of uniting these families by the marriage of the earl of Essex with Lady Frances Howard, daughter of the earl of Suffolk. She was only thirteen, he fourteen years of age; and it was thought proper, till both should attain the age of puberty that he should go abroad, and pass some time in his travels.[*] He returned into England after four years' absence, and was pleased to find his countess in the full lustre of beauty, and possessed of the love and admiration of the whole court. But, when the earl approached, and claimed the privileges of a husband, he met with nothing but symptoms of aversion and disgust, and a flat refusal of any further familiarities. He applied to her parents, who constrained her to attend him into the country, and to partake of his bed: but nothing could overcome her rigid sullenness and obstinacy; and she still rose from his side without having shared the nuptial pleasures. Disgusted with reiterated denials, he at last gave over the pursuit, and separating himself from her, thenceforth abandoned her conduct to her own will and discretion.

Such coldness and aversion in Lady Essex arose not without an attachment to another object. The favorite had opened his addresses, and had been too successful in making impression on the tender heart of the young countess.[**] She imagined that, so long as she refused the embraces of Essex, she never could be deemed his wife; and that a separation and divorce might still open the way for a new marriage with her beloved Rochester.[***] Though their passion was so violent, and their opportunities of intercourse so frequent, that they had already indulged themselves in all the gratifications of love, they still lamented their unhappy fate, while the union between them was not entire and indissoluble. And the lover, as well as his mistress, was impatient till their mutual ardor should be crowned by marriage.

* Kennet, p. 686.

** Kennet, p. 687.

*** State Trials, vol. i. p. 228.

So momentous an affair could not be concluded without consulting Overbury, with whom Rochester was accustomed to share all his secrets. While that faithful friend had considered his patron's attachment to the countess of Essex merely as an affair of gallantry, he had favored its progress; and it was partly owing to the ingenious and passionate letters which he dictated, that Rochester had met with such success in his addresses. Like an experienced courtier, he thought that a conquest of this nature would throw a lustre on the young favorite, and would tend still further to endear him to James, who was charmed to hear of the amours of his court, and listened with attention to every tale of gallantry. But great was Overbury's alarm, when Rochester mentioned his design of marrying the countess; and he used every method to dissuade his friend from so foolish an attempt. He represented how invidious, how difficult an enterprise to procure her a divorce from her husband: how dangerous, how shameful, to take into his own bed a profligate woman, who, being married to a young nobleman of the first rank, had not scrupled to prostitute her character, and to bestow favors on the object of a capricious and momentary passion. And in the zeal of friendship, he went so far as to threaten Rochester, that he would separate himself forever from him, if he could so far forget his honor and his interest as to prosecute the intended marriage.[*]

Rochester had the weakness to reveal this conversation to the countess of Essex; and when her rage and fury broke out against Overbury, he had also the weakness to enter into her vindictive projects, and to swear vengeance against his friend, for the utmost instance which he could receive of his faithful friendship. Some contrivance was necessary for the execution of their purpose. Rochester addressed himself to the king; and after complaining, that his own indulgence to Overbury had begotten in him a degree of arrogance which was extremely disagreeable, he procured a commission for his embassy to Russia; which he represented as a retreat for his friend, both profitable and honorable. When consulted by Overbury, he earnestly dissuaded him from accepting this offer, and took on himself the office of satisfying the king, if he should be anywise displeased with the refusal.[**] To the king again, he aggravated the insolence of Overbury's conduct, and obtained a warrant for committing him to the Tower, which James intended as a slight punishment for his disobedience. The lieutenant of the Tower was a creature of Rochester's, and had lately been put into the office for this very purpose: he confined Overbury so strictly, that the unhappy prisoner was debarred the sight even of his nearest relations, and no communication of any kind was allowed with him during near six months which he lived in prison.

* State Trials, vol. i. p. 235, 236, 252. Franklyn, p. 14.

** State Trials, vol. i. p. 236, 237, etc.

This obstacle being removed, the lovers pursued their purpose; and the king himself, forgetting the dignity of his character, and his friendship for the family of Essex, entered zealously into the project of procuring the countess a divorce from her husband. Essex also embraced the opportunity of separating himself from a bad woman, by whom he was hated; and he was willing to favor their success by any honorable expedient. The pretence for a divorce was his incapacity to fulfil the conjugal duties; and he confessed that, with regard to the countess, he was conscious of such an infirmity, though he was not sensible of it with regard to any other woman. In her place, too, it is said, a young virgin was substituted under a mask, to undergo a legal inspection by a jury of matrons. After such a trial, seconded by court influence, and supported by the ridiculous opinion of fascination or witchcraft, the sentence of divorce was pronounced between the earl of Essex and his countess.[*] And, to crown the scene, the king, solicitous lest the lady should lose any rank by her new marriage, bestowed on his minion the title of earl of Somerset.

Notwithstanding this success, the countess of Somerset was not satisfied till she should further satiate her revenge on Overbury: and she engaged her husband, as well as her uncle, the earl of Northampton, in the atrocious design of taking him off secretly by poison. Fruitless attempts were reiterated by weak poisons; but at last they gave him one so sudden and violent, that the symptoms were apparent to every one who approached him.[**] His interment was hurried on with the greatest precipitation; and though a strong suspicion immediately prevailed in the public, the full proof of the crime was not brought to light till some years after.

* State Trials, vol. i. p. 223, 224, etc.

** Franklyn's Annais. p. 2, 3, etc.

The fatal catastrophe of Overbury increased or begot the suspicion that the prince of Wales had been carried off by poison given him by Somerset. Men considered not that the contrary inference was much juster. If Somerset was so great a novice in this detestable art, that, during the course of five months, a man who was his prisoner and attended by none but his emissaries, could not be despatched but in so bungling a manner, how could it be imagined, that a young prince, living in his own court, surrounded by his own friends and domestics, could be exposed to Somerset's attempts, and be taken off by so subtile a poison, if such a one exist, as could elude the skill of the most experienced physicians?

The ablest minister that James ever possessed, the earl of Salisbury, was dead.[*] Suffolk, a man of slender capacity, had succeeded him in his office; and it was now his task to supply, from an exhausted treasury, the profusion of James and of his young favorite. The title of baronet, invented by Salisbury, was sold; and two hundred patents of that species of knighthood were disposed of for so many thousand pounds; each rank of nobility had also its price affixed to it:[**] privy seals were circulated to the amount of two hundred thousand pounds: benevolences were exacted to the amount of fifty-two thousand pounds:[***] and some monopolies, of no great value, were erected. But all these expedients proved insufficient to supply the king's necessities; even though he began to enter into some schemes for retrenching his expenses.[****] However small the hopes of success, a new parliament must be summoned, and this dangerous expedient—for such it was now become—once more be put to trial.

{1614.} When the commons were assembled, they discovered an extraordinary alarm, on account of the rumor which was spread abroad concerning "undertakers."[v] It was reported, that several persons, attached to the king, had entered into a confederacy; and having laid a regular plan for the new elections, had distributed their interest all over England, and had undertaken to secure a majority for the court. So ignorant were the commons, that they knew not this incident to be the first infallible symptom of any regular or established liberty. Had they been contented to follow the maxims of their predecessors, who, as the earl of Salisbury said to the last parliament, never, but thrice in six hundred years, refused a supply,v they needed not dread that the crown should ever interest itself in their elections. Formerly the kings even insisted, that none of their household should be elected members; and though the charter was afterwards declared void, Henry VI., from his great favor to the city of York, conferred a peculiar privilege on its citizens, that they should be exempted from this trouble.[v**]

* 14th of May, 1612.

** Franklyn, p. 11, 33.

*** Franklyn, p. 10.

**** Franklyn, p. 49.

v Parliament. Hist. vol. v. p. 286. Kennet, p. 696. Journ. 12th April; 2d May, 1614, etc. Franklyn, p. 48.

v* Journ. 17th Feb. 1609. It appears, however, that Salisbury was somewhat mistaken in this fact; and if the kings were not oftener refused supply by the parliament, it was only because they would not often expose themselves to the hazard of being refused: but it in certain that English parliaments did anciently carry their frugality to an extreme, and seldom could be prevailed upon to give the necessary support to government.

v** Coke's Institutes, part iv. chap. I, of Charters of Exemption.

It is well known, that, in ancient times, a seat in the house being considered as a burden, attended neither with honor nor profit, it was requisite for the counties and boroughs to pay fees to their representatives. About this time, a seat began to be regarded as an honor, and the country gentlemen contended for it; though the practice of levying wages for the parliament men was not altogether discontinued. It was not till long after, when liberty was thoroughly established, and popular assemblies entered into every branch of public business, that the members began to join profit to honor, and the crown found it necessary to distribute among them all the considerable offices of the kingdom.

So little skill, or so small means, had the courtiers in James's reign for managing elections, that this house of commons showed rather a stronger spirit of liberty than the foregoing; and instead of entering upon the business of supply, as urged by the king, who made them several liberal offers of grace,[*] they immediately resumed the subject which had been opened last parliament, and disputed his majesty's power of levying new customs and impositions, by the mere authority of his prerogative. It is remarkable, that, in their debates on this subject, the courtiers frequently pleaded, as a precedent, the example of all the other hereditary monarchs in Europe, and particularly mentioned the kings of France and Spain; nor was this reasoning received by the house either with surprise or indignation.[**] The members of the opposite party either contented themselves with denying the justness of the inference, or they disputed the truth of the observation.[***] And a patriot member in particular, Sir Roger Owen, even in arguing against the impositions, frankly allowed, that the king of England was endowed with as ample a power and prerogative as any prince in Christendom.[****] The nations on the continent, we may observe, enjoyed still, in that age, some small remains of liberty; and the English were possessed of little more.

* Journ. 11th April, 1614.

** Journ. 21st May, 1614.

*** Journ. 12th, 21st May, 1614.

**** Journ. 18th April, 1614.

The commons applied to the lords for a conference with regard to the new impositions. A speech of Neile, bishop of Lincoln, reflecting on the lower house, begat some altercation with the peers;[*] [53] and the king seized the opportunity of dissolving, immediately, with great indignation, a parliament which had shown so firm a resolution of retrenching his prerogative, without communicating, in return, the smallest supply to his necessities. He carried his resentment so far, as even to throw into prison some of the members who had been the most forward in their opposition to his measures.[**] In vain did he plead, in excuse for this violence, the example of Elizabeth, and other princes of the line of Tudor, as well as Plantagenet. The people and the parliament, without abandoning forever all their liberties and privileges, could acquiesce in none of these precedents, how ancient and frequent soever. And were the authority of such precedents admitted, the utmost that could be inferred is, that the constitution of England was, at that time, an inconsistent fabric, whose jarring and discordant parts must soon destroy each other, and from the dissolution of the old, beget some new form of civil government, more uniform and consistent.

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

** Kennet, p. 696.

In the public and avowed conduct of the king and the house of commons, throughout this whole reign, there appears sufficient cause of quarrel and mutual disgust; yet are we not to imagine that this was the sole foundation of that jealousy which prevailed between them. During debates in the house, it often happened that a particular member, more ardent and zealous than the rest, would display the highest sentiments of liberty, which the commons contented themselves to hear with silence and seeming approbation; and the king, informed of these harangues, concluded the whole house to be infected with the same principles, and to be engaged in a combination against his prerogative. The king, on the other hand, though he valued himself extremely on his kingcraft, and perhaps was not altogether incapable of dissimulation, seems to have been very little endowed with the gift of secrecy; but openly at his table, in all companies, inculcated those monarchical tenets which he had so strongly imbibed. Before a numerous audience, he had expressed himself with great disparagement of the common law of England, and had given the preference, in the strongest terms, to the civil law: and for this indiscretion he found himself obliged to apologize, in a speech to the former parliament.[*] As a specimen of his usual liberty of talk, we may mention a story, though it passed some time after, which we meet with in the life of Waller, and which that poet used frequently to repeat. When Waller was young, he had the curiosity to go to court; and he stood in the circle, and saw James dine; where, among other company, there sat at table two bishops, Neile and Andrews. The king proposed aloud this question, Whether he might not take his subjects' money, when he needed it, without all this formality of parliament? Neile replied, "God forbid you should not: for you are the breath of our nostrils." Andrews declined answering, and said he was not skilled in parliamentary cases: but upon the king's urging him, and saying he would admit of no evasion, the bishop replied pleasantly, "Why, then, I think your majesty may lawfully take my brother Neile's money; for he offers it."[**]

{1615.} The favorite had hitherto escaped the inquiry of justice; but he had not escaped that still voice which can make itself be heard amidst all the hurry and flattery of a court, and astonishes the criminal with a just representation of his most secret enormities. Conscious of the murder of his friend, Somerset received small consolation from the enjoyments of love, or the utmost kindness and indulgence of his sovereign. The graces of his youth gradually disappeared, the gayety of his manners was obscured, his politeness and obliging behavior were changed into sullenness and silence. And the king, whose affections had been engaged by these superficial accomplishments, began to estrange himself from a man who no longer contributed to his amusement.

The sagacious courtiers observed the first symptoms of this disgust: Somerset's enemies seized the opportunity, and offered a new minion to the king. George Villiers, a youth of one-and-twenty, younger brother of a good family, returned at this time from his travels, and was remarked for the advantages of a handsome person, genteel air, and fashionable apparel. At a comedy, he was purposely placed full in James's eye, and immediately engaged the attention, and, in the same instant, the affections of that monarch.[***] Ashamed of his sudden attachment, the king endeavored, but in vain, to conceal the partiality which he felt for the handsome stranger; and he employed all his profound politics to fix him in his service, without seeming to desire it.

* King James's Works, p. 532.

** Preface to Waller's Works.

*** Franklyn, p. 50. Kennet, vol. ii. p. 698.

He declared his resolution not to confer any office on him, unless entreated by the queen; and he pretended, that it should only be in complaisance to her choice he would agree to admit him near his person. The queen was immediately applied to; but she, well knowing the extreme to which the king carried these attachments, refused, at first, to lend her countenance to this new passion. It was not till entreated by Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, a decent prelate, and one much prejudiced against Somerset, that she would condescend to oblige her husband, by asking this favor of him.[*] And the king, thinking now that all appearances were fully saved, no longer constrained his affection, but immediately bestowed the office of cup-bearer on young Villiers.

* Coke, p. 46, 47. Rush, vol. i. p. 456.

The whole court was thrown into parties between the two minions: while some endeavored to advance the rising fortunes of Villiers, others deemed it safer to adhere to the established credit of Somerset. The king himself, divided between inclination and decorum, increased the doubt and ambiguity of the courtiers; and the stern jealousy of the old favorite, who refused every advance of friendship from his rival, begat perpetual quarrels between their several partisans. But the discovery of Somerset's guilt in the murder of Overbury at last decided the controversy, and exposed him to the ruin and infamy which he so well merited.

An apothecary's apprentice, who had been employed in making up the poisons, having retired to Flushing, began to talk very freely of the whole secret; and the affair at last came to the ears of Trumbal, the king's envoy in the Low Countries. By his means, Sir Ralph Winwood, secretary of state, was informed; and he immediately carried the intelligence to James. The king, alarmed and astonished to find such enormous guilt in a man whom he had admitted into his bosom, sent for Sir Edward Coke, chief justice, and earnestly recommended to him the most rigorous and unbiased scrutiny. This injunction was executed with great industry and severity: the whole labyrinth of guilt was carefully unravelled: the lesser criminals, Sir Jervis Elvis, lieutenant of the Tower, Franklin, Weston, Mrs. Turner, were first tried and condemned: Somerset and his countess were afterwards found guilty. Northampton's death, a little before, had saved him from a like fate.

It may not be unworthy of remark, that Coke, in the trial of Mrs. Turner, told her that she was guilty of the seven deadly sins: she was a whore, a bawd, a sorcerer, a witch, a Papist, a felon, and a murderer.[*] And, what may more surprise us, Bacon, then attorney-general, took care to observe, that poisoning was a Popish trick.[**] Such were the bigoted prejudices which prevailed: poisoning was not of itself sufficiently odious, if it were not represented as a branch of Popery. Stowe tells us, that when the king came to Newcastle, on his first entry into England, he gave liberty to all the prisoners, except those who were confined for treason, murder, and Papistry. When one considers these circumstances, that furious bigotry of the Catholics which broke out in the gunpowder conspiracy, appears the less surprising.

All the accomplices in Overbury's murder received the punishment due to their crime: but the king bestowed a pardon on the principals, Somerset and the countess. It must be confessed, that James's fortitude had been highly laudable, had he persisted in his first intention of consigning over to severe justice all the criminals: but let us still beware of blaming him too harshly, if, on the approach of the fatal hour, he scrupled to deliver into the hands of the executioner persons whom he had once favored with his most tender affections. To soften the rigor of their fate, after some years' imprisonment, he restored them to their liberty, and conferred on them a pension, with which they retired, and languished out old age in infamy and obscurity. Their guilty loves were turned into the most deadly hatred; and they passed many years together in the same house, without any intercourse or correspondence with each other.[***]

Several historians,[****] in relating these events, have insisted much on the dissimulation of James's behavior, when he delivered Somerset into the hands of the chief justice; on the insolent menaces of that criminal; on his peremptory refusal to stand a trial; and on the extreme anxiety of the king during the whole progress of this affair.

* State Trials, vol. i. p. 230.

** State Trials, vol. i. p. 242.

*** Kennet, p. 699.

**** Coke, Weldon, etc.

Allowing all these circumstances to be true, of which some are suspicious, if not palpably false,[*] the great remains of tenderness which James still felt for Somerset, may, perhaps, be sufficient to account for them. That favorite was high-spirited, and resolute rather to perish than live under the infamy to which he was exposed. James was sensible, that the pardoning of so great a criminal, which was of itself invidious, would become still more unpopular, if his obstinate and stubborn behavior on his trial should augment the public hatred against him.[**] At least, the unreserved confidence in which the king had indulged his favorite for several years, might render Somerset master of so many secrets, that it is impossible, without further light, to assign the particular reason of that superiority which, it is said, he appeared so much to assume.

The fall of Somerset, and his banishment from court, opened the way for Villiers to mount up at once to the full height of favor, of honors, and of riches. Had James's passion been governed by common rules of prudence, the office of cup-bearer would have attached Villiers to his person, and might well have contented one of his age and family; nor would any one, who was not cynically austere, have much censured the singularity of the king's choice in his friends and favorites. But such advancement was far inferior to the fortune which he intended for his minion. In the course of a few years, he created him Viscount Villiers, earl, marquis, and duke of Buckingham, knight of the garter, master of the horse, chief justice in eyre, warden of the cinque ports, master of the king's bench office, steward of Westminster, constable of Windsor, and lord high admiral of England. His mother obtained the title of countess of Buckingham: his brother was created Viscount Purbeck; and a numerous train of needy relations were all pushed up into credit and authority. And thus the fond prince, while he meant to play the tutor to his favorite, and to train him up in the rules of prudence and politics, took an infallible method, by loading him with premature and exorbitant honors, to render him, forever, rash, precipitate, and insolent.

* See Biog. Brit, article Coke, p. 1384.

** Bacon, vol.iv. p. 617.

*** Franklyn, p. 30. Clarendon, 8vo. edit. vol. i. p. 10

{1616.} A young minion to gratify with pleasure, a necessitous family to supply with riches, were enterprises too great for the empty exchequer of James. In order to obtain a little money, the cautionary towns must be delivered up to the Dutch; a measure which has been severely blamed by almost all historians; and I may venture to affirm, that it has been censured much beyond its real weight and importance.

When Queen Elizabeth advanced money for the support of the infant republic, besides the view of securing herself against the power and ambition of Spain, she still reserved the prospect of reimbursement; and she got consigned into her hands the three important fortresses of Flushing, the Brille, and Rammekins, as pledges for the money due to her. Indulgent to the necessitous condition of the states, she agreed that the debt should bear no interest; and she stipulated, that if ever England should make a separate peace with Spain, she should pay the troops which garrisoned those fortresses.[*]

After the truce was concluded between Spain and the United Provinces, the states made an agreement with the king, that the debt, which then amounted to eight hundred thousand pounds, should be discharged by yearly payments of forty thousand pounds; and as five years had elapsed, the debt was now reduced to six hundred thousand pounds; and in fifteen years more, if the truce were renewed, it would be finally extinguished.[**]

* Rymer, tom. xvi. p. 341. Winwood, vol. ii. p. 351.

** Sir Dudley Carleton's Letters, p. 27, 28.

But of this sum, twenty-six thousand pounds a year were expended on the pay of the garrisons: the remainder alone accrued to the king: and the states, weighing these circumstances, thought that they made James a very advantageous offer, when they expressed their willingness, on the surrender of the cautionary towns to pay him immediately two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, and to incorporate the English garrisons in their army. It occurred also to the king, that even the payment of the forty thousand pounds a year was precarious, and depended on the accident that the truce should be renewed between Spain and the republic: if war broke out, the maintenance of the garrisons lay upon England alone; a burden very useless, and too heavy for the slender revenues of that kingdom: that even during the truce, the Dutch, straitened by other expenses, were far from being regular in their payments; and the garrisons were at present in danger of mutinying for want of subsistence: that the annual sum of fourteen thousand pounds, the whole saving on the Dutch payments, amounted, in fifteen years, to no more than two hundred and ten thousand pounds; whereas two hundred and fifty thousand pounds were offered immediately, a larger sum; and if money be computed at ten per cent., the current interest more than double the sum to which England was entitled:[*] that if James waited till the whole debt were discharged, the troops which composed the garrisons remained a burden upon him, and could not be broken, without receiving some consideration for their past services: that the cautionary towns were only a temporary restraint upon the Hollanders; and, in the present emergence, the conjunction of interest between England and the republic was so intimate as to render all other ties superfluous; and no reasonable measures for mutual support would be wanting from the Dutch, even though freed from the dependence of these garrisons: that the exchequer of the republic was at present very low, insomuch that they found difficulty, now that the aids of France were withdrawn, to maintain themselves in that posture of defence which was requisite during the truce with Spain: and that the Spaniards were perpetually insisting with the king on the restitution of these towns, as belonging to their crown; and no cordial alliance could ever be made with that nation, while they remained in the hands of the English.[**] These reasons, together with his urgent wants, induced the king to accept of Caron's offer; and he evacuated the cautionary towns, which held the states in a degree of subjection, and which an ambitious and enterprising prince would have regarded as his most valuable possessions. This is the date of the full liberty of the Dutch commonwealth.

* An annuity of fourteen thousand pounds during fifteen years, money being at ten per cent., is worth, on computation, only one hundred and six thousand five hundred pounds; whereas the king received two hundred and fifty thousand pounds. Yet the bargain was good for the Dutch, as well as the king; because they were both of them freed from the maintenance of useless garrisons.

** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 3.

{1617.} When the crown of England devolved on James, it might have been foreseen by the Scottish nation, that the independence of their kingdom, the object for which their ancestors had shed so much blood, would now be lost; and that, if both states persevered in maintaining separate laws and parliaments, the weaker would more sensibly feel the subjection, than if it had been totally subdued by force of arms. But these views did not generally occur. The glory of having given a sovereign to their powerful enemy, the advantages of present peace and tranquillity, the riches acquired from the munificence of their master; these considerations secured their dutiful obedience to a prince who daily gave such sensible proofs of his friendship and partiality towards them. Never had the authority of any king who resided among them, been so firmly established as was that of James, even when absent; and as the administration had been hitherto conducted with great order and tranquillity, there had happened no occurrence to draw thither our attention. But this summer the king was resolved to pay a visit to his native country, in order to renew his ancient friendships and connections, and to introduce that change of ecclesiastical discipline and government on which he was extremely intent. The three chief points of this kind, which James proposed to accomplish by his journey to Scotland, were the enlarging of episcopal authority, the establishing of a few ceremonies in public worship, and the fixing of a superiority in the civil above the ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

But it is an observation suggested by all history, and by none more than by that of James and his successor, that the religious spirit, when it mingles with faction, contains in it something supernatural and unaccountable; and that, in its operations upon society, effects correspond less to their known causes than is found in any other circumstance of government; a reflection which may at once afford a source of blame against such sovereigns as lightly innovate in so dangerous an article, and of apology for such as, being engaged in an enterprise of that nature, are disappointed of the expected event, and fail in their undertakings.

When the Scottish nation was first seized with that zeal for reformation, which, though it caused such disturbance during the time, has proved so salutary in the consequences, the preachers, assuming a character little inferior to the prophetic or apostolical, disdained all subjection to the spiritual rulers of the church, by whom their innovations were punished and opposed. The revenues of the dignified clergy, no longer considered as sacred, were either appropriated by the present possessors, or seized by the more powerful barons; and what remained, after mighty dilapidations, was, by act of parliament, annexed to the crown. The prelates, however, and abbots, maintained their temporal jurisdictions and their seats in parliament; and though laymen were sometimes endowed with ecclesiastical titles, the church, notwithstanding its frequent protestations to the contrary, was still supposed to be represented by those spiritual lords in the states of the kingdom. After many struggles, the king, even before his accession to the throne of England, had acquired sufficient influence over the Scottish clergy, to extort from them an acknowledgment of the parliamentary jurisdiction of bishops; though attended with many precautions, in order to secure themselves against the spiritual encroachments of that order.[*] When king of England, he engaged them, though still with great reluctance on their part, to advance a step further, and to receive the bishops as perpetual presidents or moderators in their ecclesiastical synods; reiterating their protestations against all spiritual jurisdiction of the prelates, and all controlling power over the presbyters.[**] And by such gradual innovations, the king flattered himself that he should quietly introduce episcopal authority: but as his final scope was fully seen from the beginning, every new advance gave fresh occasion of discontent, and aggravated, instead of softening, the abhorrence entertained against the prelacy.

* 1598.

** 1606.

What rendered the king's aim more apparent, were the endeavors which, at the same time, he used to introduce into Scotland some of the ceremonies of the church of England: the rest, it was easily foreseen, would soon follow. The fire of devotion, excited by novelty, and inflamed by opposition, had so possessed the minds of the Scottish reformers, that all rites and ornaments, and even order of worship, were disdainfully rejected as useless burdens; retarding the imagination in its rapturous ecstasies, and cramping the operations of that divine spirit by which they supposed themselves to be animated. A mode of worship was established, the most naked and most simple imaginable; one that borrowed nothing from the senses, but reposed itself entirely on the contemplation of that divine essence which discovers itself to the understanding only. This species of devotion, so worthy of the Supreme Being, but so little suitable to human frailty, was observed to occasion great disturbances in the breast, and in many respects to confound all rational principles of conduct and behavior. The mind, straining for these extraordinary raptures, reaching them by short glances, sinking again under its own weakness, rejecting all exterior aid of pomp and ceremony, was so occupied in this inward life, that It fled from every intercourse of society, and from every cheerful amusement which could soften or humanize the character. It was obvious to all discerning eyes, and had not escaped the king's, that, by the prevalence of fanaticism, a gloomy and sullen disposition established itself among the people; a spirit obstinate and dangerous; independent and disorderly; animated equally with a contempt of authority, and a hatred to every other mode of religion, particularly to the Catholic. In order to mellow these humors, James endeavored to infuse a small tincture of ceremony into the national worship, and to introduce such rites as might, in some degree, occupy the mind, and please the senses, without departing too far from that simplicity by which the reformation was distinguished. The finer arts too, though still rude in these northern kingdoms, were employed to adorn the churches; and the king's chapel, in which an organ was erected, and some pictures and statues displayed, was proposed as a model to the rest of the nation. But music was grating to the prejudiced ears of the Scottish; clergy; sculpture and painting appeared instruments of idolatry the surplice was a rag of Popery; and every motion or gesture prescribed by the liturgy, was a step towards that spiritual Babylon, so much the object of their horror and aversion. Every thing was deemed impious but their own mystical comments on the Scriptures, which they idolized, and whose Eastern prophetic style they employed in every common occurrence.

It will not be necessary to give a particular account of the ceremonies which the king was so intent to establish. Such institutions, for a time, are esteemed either too divine to have proceeded from any other being than the Supreme Creator of the universe, or too diabolical to have been derived from any but an infernal demon. But no sooner is the mode of the controversy past, than they are universally discovered to be of so little importance, as scarcely to be mentioned with decency amidst the ordinary course of human transactions. It suffices here to remark, that the rites introduced by James regarded the kneeling at the sacrament, private communion, private baptism, confirmation of children, and the observance of Christmas and other festivals.[*]

* Franklyn, p. 25. Spotswood.

The acts establishing these ceremonies were afterwards known by the name of the Articles of Perth, from the place where they were ratified by the assembly.

A conformity of discipline and worship between the churches of England and Scotland, which was James's aim, he never could hope to establish, but by first procuring an acknowledgment of his own authority in all spiritual causes; and nothing could be more contrary to the practice as well as principles of the Presbyterian clergy. The ecclesiastical courts possessed the power of pronouncing excommunication; and that sentence, besides the spiritual consequences supposed to follow from it, was attended with immediate effects of the most important nature. The person excommunicated was shunned by every one as profane and impious; and his whole estate, during his lifetime, and all his movables, forever, were forfeited to the crown. Nor were the previous steps requisite before pronouncing this sentence, formal or regular, in proportion to the weight of it. Without accuser, without summons, without trial, any ecclesiastical court, however inferior, sometimes pretended, in a summary manner, to denounce excommunication, for any cause, and against any person, even though he lived not within the bounds of their jurisdiction.[*] And, by this means, the whole tyranny of the inquisition, though without its order, was introduced into the kingdom.

But the clergy were not content with the unlimited jurisdiction which they exercised in ecclesiastical matters: they assumed a censorial power over every part of administration; and, in all their sermons, and even prayers, mingling politics with religion, they inculcated the most seditious and most turbulent principles. Black, minister of St. Andrew's, went so far,[**] in a sermon, as to pronounce all kings the devil's children; he gave the queen of England the appellation of atheist; he said, that the treachery of the king's heart was now fully discovered; and in his prayers for the queen he used these words: "We must pray for her for the fashion's sake, but we have no cause: she will never do us any good." When summoned before the privy council, he refused to answer to a civil court for any thing delivered from the pulpit, even though the crime of which he was accused was of a civil nature. The church adopted his cause. They raised a sedition in Edinburgh.[***]

* Spotswood.

** 1596.

*** 17th Dec. 1596.

The king, during some time, was in the hands of the enraged populace; and it was not without courage, as well as dexterity, that he was able to extricate himself.[*] A few days after, a minister, preaching in the principal church of that capital, said, that the king was possessed with a devil; and that, one devil being expelled, seven worse had entered in his place.[**] To which he added, that the subjects might lawfully rise, and take the sword out of his hand. Scarcely, even during the darkest night of Papal superstition, are there found such instances of priestly encroachments, as the annals of Scotland present to us during that period.

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