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the guilt of these transactions; forwarding every bad project that brought her in money; and, by the mighty power she had over her son, succeeding in every scandalous job she undertook. Under an administration like this, when England was in effect governed by a dissolute youth, himself in the hands of an intriguing, rapacious woman, it cannot be surprising that the people were vexed and plundered by illegal patents, by monopolies, by other mischievous projects, calculated to enrich a few, and to ruin thousands. To all these patents, however procured, the chancellor had readily, almost implicitly, affixed the seal, as the mere creature of Buckingham: or if he ever ventured to insinuate that any of them were contrary to law, his remonstrance was too fearful and unsupported to produce any effect. This is the great stain on his character, that he deserted, or neglected, the post of honour where Providence had placed him, on the frontier, if I may so speak, betwixt Prerogative and Liberty; that, if he did not encourage, he at least connived at, the invasions that were every day making into the latter. Yet this was against his inclination, as well as against his better sense of things; for as he knew well that his master's true interest lay in a good understanding with his people, he had often advised him to call frequent parliaments, and to throw himself on the affections of the nation for the support of his government. Though such advice was repugnant to all the maxims by which that monarch wished to establish his power; though he had resolved to lay parliaments aside for ever, as daring encroachers upon his prerogative, who made themselves greater and their prince less than became either yet he was now prevailed upon to meet the two houses once more. Indeed the exigency of his affairs rendered it necessary. His subjects, it is true, were harassed and pillaged; but he was still in extreme want of money: those wretches, to whom he delegated his authority, leaving to him little else besides the public hatred, occasioned by their rapines committed in his name. Add to this, that the junc
ture appeared favourable for obtaining large supplies from the commons. As the whole body of the nation expressed an uncommon zeal for recovering the Palatinate to his unfortunate son-in-law, he had reason to expect, that, on assurance of his entering heartily into a war, they would vote him considerable aids of money; which he might afterwards divert, as he actually did, to other purposes that better suited his genius and notions.
A parliament was accordingly summoned: and it met on the 20th of January, 1621. The king was not wholly mistaken in his conjecture: for the commons immediately voted him two entire subsidies; but went at the same time upon a strict enquiry into those arbitrary impositions, that, in a period of seven years, were become insupportable to the people. Among the monopolies, in particular, there were three of flagrant injustice and oppression. Certain persons had obtained patents from the king, which impowered them to set an annual fine on such as kept inns, or alehouses, throughout England.
out a licence from the patentees, no man could hold either and whoever would not readily pay the sum, at which those low instruments of power thought fit to excise him, was sure of being harassed and plundered, or thrown into a jail. This proved a fruitful source of vexations, and fell heavy on the poorer sort. The third was yet more enormous; a patent for the sole making and vending of gold and silver lace, which had been granted to two infamous tools of the favourite, Mompesson and Michel; the Dudley and Empson of that age. The first a man of fortune, whose sole ambition was to make himself considered, though but by his crimes: the other an obscure justice of the peace, who, in a remote quarter of the town, picked up a sordid maintenance from the stews. They had, it seems, shamefully abused the power their exclusive patent gave them, by putting off, for true, great quantities of counterfeit lace, wrought up and embased with copper, or other materials of a poisonous nature: and whoever presumed
to make or sell any other was cruelly punished, by fine and imprisonment. In these outrages they were Hacket, the more daring, because Sir Edward Villiers, half- p. 49. brother to the favourite, was associated into their patent, though not named in it. These, with many other grievances, were laid open in parliament, and severely censured. But the commons did not stop here. They were for carrying their search up to the prime cause of all grievances, in order to discover by whose influence the several patents had been procured, and how they had passed the seals. Complaints were brought into the house, about the same time, of corrupt practices even in the high court of Equity. This alarmed the king for his chancellor, and still more for his minion: as private intimation had been sent to Buckingham, of a severe scrutiny Cabala, that was making into all his management, and of Letter 1. frequent meetings that were held, with great secrecy, by certain members of the lower house; in order to fix on him the guilt of whatever was most unjustifiable and oppressive. Buckingham's creatures, anxious and alarmed at this intelligence, persuaded him that he could secure impunity to himself and them, only by bringing his master forthwith to dissolve the parliament and James had certainly been frightened into that rash and hazardous step, but for the sober remonstrances of Williams dean of Westminster. That politic courtier advised him to cancel at once, by proclamation, all monopolies and vexatious grants; to sacrifice inferior criminals to the public resentment, and to soothe the parliament with an assurance that this reformation was first proposed by his favourite, on finding how much he had been abused by designing and knavish projectors. This counsel the king resolved to follow; but it did not wholly free him from the perplexity he was under. The chancellor, whom his interest led him to preserve, was openly accused of corruption: the favourite, whom his tenderness could not resign, was secretly, and therefore more dangerously attacked; as the encourager, if not the author, of whatever was deemed
P. 2, 3.
most illegal and oppressive. To save both, at this Abridg. juncture, would be impossible: and he found he must either part with the object of his inclinations, or with the oracle of his counsels. How such a prince would determine, is easy to guess. His passion prevailed over his reason: and my lord St. Albans was made the scape-goat of Buckingham. He was even obliged to abandon his defence. As he had gained universal esteem by his learning; and as his eloquence was equal to his parts, superior and commanding, the king would not hazard his appearing before the lords to plead his own cause. In the course of such an inquiry, he might have diverted the public odium from himself, by laying open the long series of bad administration to which he had been privy; the many illegal patents he had been compelled to pass; and all this came full home to Buckingham, the great object of national vengeance. The faults, too, imputed to himself, he might have extenuated so far as to procure a great mitigation of the censure that must otherwise fall upon him in its utmost rigour. All this he foresaw and felt; but the king absolutely commanded him not to be present at his trial; promising on his royal word, to screen him in the last determination; or if that could not be, to reward him afterwards with ample retribution of protection and favour. He obeyed, and was undone.
State Tri.On the twelfth of March, a committee for inspecting into the abuses of the courts of justice was appointed by the commons. Some days after, Sir Ro
p. 359, etc.
bert Phillips, a gentleman eminent for public spirit and humanity, reported from thence to the house, that complaints had been brought before them, by two persons, against the lord Chancellor, for bribery and corruption. This report he made not only without bitterness, but in terms of great regard and tenderness for the accused; moving, that the business might be presented to the peers singly, and, without exaggeration. At a conference, on the nineteenth, between certain members of both houses, the lords agreed to take the matter into their speedy consider
ation. As soon as this affair was become the public talk, a new crowd of accusers appeared, and charged home the unhappy chancellor with other and flagrant instances of bribery; such persons especially as had courted him with presents, and afterwards received a judgment unfavourable to their expectations: animated more by that disappointment, than by the iniquity of his decisions; for it does not ap- Rushpear that any of his decrees were ever reversed. He worth's was all this while confined to his house by an indisposition, real or pretended; but if his body was in health, what must have been the condition of his mind, in this interval of suspense and anxiety? a great mind, already self-convicted, yet exquisitely sensible to good fame, which it has long enjoyed, and is upon the point of losing for ever! His reflections, whether he looked back on the past, or forward to the prospect before him, must have been terrible: as they were at the same time inflamed by peculiar circumstances of shame and confusion; that he was now, at the age of sixty-one, falling a victim to the rapine and insolence of his domestics, which he had weakly connived at, rather than to any faults of his own.
On the twenty-sixth of March, the king came to the house of peers; and, in expressions of studied popularity, owned the errors of his government, exclaimed against the patents complained of, frankly gave up to justice the lesser criminals concerned in them and all this for the sake of his favourite, whom in the end he endeavoured to screen by the poorest reasons imaginable. Indeed, no good reasons could be alledged in defence of him, who was the greatest criminal; and without whose concurrence the wretches in question could not have been guilty. The lords were not imposed upon by this speech: however, thinking it sufficient to have reduced their sovereign to the necessity of an apology, they feigned to be of his opinion. Thus, Buckingham escaped for the present; to accumulate new guilt, and to fall at last, ignobly, by a private hand: after he had been devoted, by the curses of a whole people, and more