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sixty years; and a recent decision in the Exchequer1 supported the right of the Crown. Here, therefore, was a subject for dispute, sufficient, of itself, to make a breach between even a wise King and a loyal people.

How did Cecil, and how did Bacon, propose to deal with this and other kindred questions? Three courses appear to have been open to them.

They might have admitted that the feudal and exceptional powers attached to the Crown were unfit for the times, and might have advised the King to commute them for fixed payments, more profitable to him and less galling to his subjects. This plan would have at once allayed much popular irritation; it would have removed much occasion for future misunderstanding; and it might have induced a wise Sovereign to study economy, by enabling him to ascertain the exact amount of his income, and by stimulating him to suit his expenditure to his receipts. The disadvantage would have been that, unless it left the King largely dependent upon supplementary subsidies, it would have made him independent of Parliament and not unlikely to become practically despotic. But it was, at all events, for the King's interests; and the plan might have been prudently and even patriotically suggested by a courtier, who did not wish to exchange the personal government of the Sovereign for government by a fluctuating and irresponsible House of Commons.

A second course would have been to suppress all Monopolies and Impositions in practice, while tacitly retaining the power of granting Monopolies and levying Impositions as part of the royal Prerogative, thus not raising the question of right or legality, and trusting to the gratitude of the House of Commons for liberal and compensative Subsidies. The attention of the people might further have been diverted from burning constitutional questions by introducing, at every meeting of Parliament, popular measures for reforming the laws, encouraging commerce, and the like, so that the whole nation, as well as the House of Commons, might lay aside its antagonism to the royal Prerogative. This was the course adopted by Elizabeth towards the end of her reign, when pacifying the

1 Bates's case, decided in 1606; see Gardiner, History, ii. pp. 5-7.

popular discontent at Monopolies; and it succeeded for the time. But an obvious objection to it was, that the royal self-sacrifice might not bear fruit for some years; and meantime the royal necessities were rapidly growing. Elizabeth succeeded; but she succeeded because she had the good fortune to die soon afterwards, bequeathing her debts to her successor; James had no such prospect before him. And it might also be asked, Was it worth while to retain, in a dormant state, rights which every year of inaction would make it more difficult for the Crown to recall to life? In any case, this course, if practicable at all, was not compatible with delays, hesitations, bickerings, half-concessions; if the King was to adopt this course, he must adopt it quickly and heartily.

A third course would have been to divert the attention of the nation from Constitutional questions by a spirited and popular foreign policy, championing the cause of the Protestants in Europe, and making Great Britain the centre of a powerful Protestant League. It is hardly necessary to mention as a fourth course, the plan of giving up, as obsolete, without contract or bargain, all exercise of the royal Prerogative that had become obsolete and unduly burdensome to the subject, and all that excited suspicion by reason of abuses in the past and anticipations of abuses for the future. To a very much nobler and wiser king than James, such advice might well have seemed quixotic; and even if James had been the king to accept it, Cecil and Bacon were not the counsellors to offer it. It might have been the best course: but, in the circumstances we are considering, it was impracticable, and may, as such, be dismissed.

There remain then the three policies described above, the first, the Prudent or Mercantile Policy; the second, the Distractive and Paternal Policy; the third, the Distractive and Spirited Foreign Policy. Of these Cecil chose the first, and Bacon systematically and (as far as we we can see) sincerely supported it during his life, although he bitterly inveighed against it as soon as its author was in the grave. It was frustrated by the inconstancy or insincerity of the King; and, after it had failed, Bacon, instead of trying to recur to it, resorted to the Distractive and Paternal Policy, with occasional

vain attempts to induce the King to adopt the third course, which in his own heart he thought the best, the Distractive and Spirited Foreign Policy. But all his efforts were inevitably barren. The Prerogative question had gone too far, even in the reign of Elizabeth, to be now ignored under her successor. Settled it must be in some way; and that it must be settled was probably patent to almost every member of the House of Commons except Bacon and the tribe of courtiers who had neither ability nor desire to see, or foresee, anything that was disagreeable to the King.

It was characteristic of this most sanguine of counsellors that he should have supposed that the great constitutional question of the day could be buried by simply ignoring it. But we are startled to find him at the same time using language calculated to magnify the difficulty. At the least, it might have been supposed that, during the discussion of these questions, he would have studiously avoided every word that might have led the King to magnify, and the Commons to dread and suspect, the Prerogative of the Crown. But no: he loses no occasion for bringing the Prerogative forward; he justifies it, extols it, amplifies it. Perhaps he thought by enhancing the value of it, to enhance the price at which the Commons must expect to redeem the burdens which it entailed; more probably he perceived that this was the surest way to obtain entrance to the King's confidence; but in any case few did so much as Bacon to confirm the King in his most dangerous pretensions, and to convince the House of Commons that the Royal Prerogative might be turned against the liberties of the people.

A brief sketch of the course of Cecil's policy may throw light on much that Bacon said and did as a member of the House of Commons, and in the capacity of confidential adviser to the King, both here and afterwards.


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In April 1608, Cecil, now Earl of Salisbury, was made Lord Treasurer, and found an annual deficiency of £83,000, and a debt of a million. He immediately (June 1608) availed himself of the Prerogative to lay on new Impositions to the amount of £60,000 a year, and increased the tax on ale-houses by £10,000 a year. It is possible that he did this in order to predispose the House of Commons to purchase exemption from these and other irregular exercises of the Prerogative; in any case, when Parliament met (9 Feb. 1610) Salisbury frankly and fully set before them the King's necessities almost in the form of a balance-sheet, and at the same time mentioned a "retribution" from the Crown, as contingent on the "contribution" from the subject. Subsequently (21 Feb.) he informed them that the King required £600,000 down, to discharge his debts, and an annual contribution of £200,000. After some negotiation, the Commons, having received permission to treat of the discharge of Tenures, stated (26 March) that if Knight's service generally were turned into free and common socage,1 they were ready to give the King £100,000 yearly. On the 26th of April they repeated their offer, explaining that the King was to retain the honour, and that they merely sought relief from the burdens of the Tenures.

But on the day before this offer (25 April 1610), the King succeeded in borrowing £100,000 from the City of London. Now independent, he at once changes his front; and Salisbury has to inform the Commons that "he feared lest some want in himself in conveying those things to them which the King propounded, had made them more obscure." And he proceeds to explain that, whereas they supposed the King was ready to part with certain points of his Prerogative for £200,000 a year, they were entirely mistaken; the fact was that, on condition of their voting him £200,000 a year, and £600,000 down, the King would graciously permit them to make a bargain with him for the "Socage" is a tenure of land for which the service is fixed and determinate in quality."

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Wardships and the like, paying him their worth, in addition to these sums.

It is impossible to suppose that Salisbury could have thus misinterpreted the King. He could not have wished his own project to fail; and his vexation was great when the Commons refused to allow the matter to be further discussed. On the one hand he endeavoured to soothe them by declaring that the sums propounded to them had been "tendered rather by way of estimation than of demand"; on the other, to intimidate them by a warning that for the House to dispute the legality of Impositions "were but to bark against the moon." But they could neither be coaxed into a renewal of their offer, nor frightened from a discussion of Impositions. When the Government perceived their temper, the Speaker received orders to deliver a message "as from the King, warning them that the question as to his right to impose duties upon merchandise exported and imported had been settled judicially, and was not to be disputed in the House;" to which the House, on ascertaining that the Speaker had received this message from the Privy Council, responded "that the same message, coming not immediately from his Majesty, should not be received as a message; and that in all messages from his Majesty, the Speaker, before he delivered them, should first ask leave of the House, according as had anciently been accustomed."

Matters were made still worse when the King (21 May 1610) endeavoured to convince the House of the reasonableness of his prohibition by a long speech, not only justifying his right to levy Impositions on exports and imports, but also implying his right to tax all other property. Concerning this speech, Chamberlain

writes as follows:

"The 21st of this present, he made another speech to both the Houses, but so little to their satisfaction that I hear it bred generally much discomfort to see our monarchical power and royal prerogative strained so high, and made so transcendent every way that, if the practice should follow the positions, we are not like to leave our successors that freedom which we received from our forefathers." 1

The answer of the House next morning was to appoint a Committee "to devise upon some course to be taken to inform 1 Spedding, iv. 182, whence the whole of this narrative is taken.

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