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ever, to understand that he thought himself' very free and able to punish any man's dismeanours in Parliament, as well during their sitting as after,' and that hereafter he should not be sparing in his use of this power upon any occasion of any man's insolent behaviour there.' If they had touched in their petition upon any of the topics which he had forbidden they were to be told that, 'except they reform it,' he would 'not deign the hearing or the answering it.' Finally, he was willing to end the session at Christmas, and to give his assent to any Bills which were really for the good of the commonwealth. If the Bills were not good, it would be their fault and not his.1

Dec. 4.

On the morning of December 4 this letter was read in the House. A peremptory refusal to accept the advice tendered would have created incomparably less consternation. It is read in Even the denial of the right of the Commons to meddle with matters of foreign policy, unless their attention had been specially directed to them, might perhaps have been passed over in silence, but it was intolerable that the question of immunity from punishment for speeches uttered

the House.

The King to the Speaker, Dec. 3, Proceedings and Debates, ii. 277. There is a letter from the Prince of Wales to Buckingham amongst the Tanner MSS. printed in Goodman's Court of King James (ii. 209), which seems to show that Charles went even beyond his father in his dislike of the proceedings of the Commons.

"The Lower House this day," he wrote, "has been a little unruly, but I hope it will turn to the best, for before they rose they began to be ashamed of it; yet I could wish that the King would send down a commissioner for that, if need were, such seditious fellows might be made an example to others by Monday next, and till then I would let them alone; it will be seen whether they mean to do good or persist in their follies, so that the King needs to be patient but a little while. I have spoken with so many of the Council as the King trusts most, and they [are] all of this mind; only the sending of authority to set seditious fellows fast is of my adding." The letter is plainly dated, "Fryday 3 No. 1621," without erasure or tear, as I am informed, by the kindness of Mr. Hackman, to whom I applied in order that I might be quite sure that there was no mistake. The date is of course impossible, as Parliament was not sitting at the time, and I do not find any Friday during the debates to which the Prince's remarks apply. The most likely day would be Dec. 3. But that was a Monday.




in the House should be thus reopened. Practically, it was a point of far greater importance than the other. If the King were in need of money, he would always be obliged to listen to anything that they might choose to say to him. If he were not in need of money, he could always close their mouths by a prorogation or a dissolution. But it was not to be borne that they should have the semblance of freedom without its reality, and that each member as he rose to speak should be weighted with the knowledge that he might soon be called upon to expiate in the Tower any uncourtly phrase which might fall from his lips.

Such a letter, it was at once felt, must not be answered in haste in a moment of irritation. Never, said Phelips, had any matter of such consequence been before them. The Adjournment of the members who had been despatched to lay the petiHouse. tion before the King were at once recalled, and the House rose for the day, in order that full consideration might be given in private to the King's demands. "Let us rise," said Digges, "but not as in discontent. Rather let us resort to our

prayers, and then to consider of this great business."1

Dec. 5.

The next morning, after a long debate, a committee was appointed to draw up an explanatory petition, and Explanatory the House again adjourned, refusing to enter upon petition. any further business till their privileges had been

defended from further attack.

Dec. 8.

On the 8th, a second petition was ready to be despatched to the King. It presented a marvellous contrast to the imperious tones of the royal rescript. It pushed concession to the verge of imprudence. Touching but lightly upon the claim put forward by the Commons to take into consideration matters of general interest, it offered James a loophole of escape from the position which he had rashly assumed, by resting their right to discuss questions connected with the penal laws and the Spanish marriage upon the simple ground that they were involved in the question of the defence of the Palatinate, which he had himself commended to their consideration. They acknowledged distinctly that it was the King's

1 Proceedings and Debates, ii. 278.

business, and not theirs, to resolve on peace and war, and to choose a wife for his son. They merely asked him to read their petition. It was only to the clauses which related to the recusancy laws and to the passing of bills that they expected an answer. "And whereas," they added, touching at last, as if with reluctance, upon the burning point of their own privileges, "your Majesty, by the general words of your letter, seemeth to restrain us from intermeddling with matters of government, or particulars which have their motion in courts of justice, the generality of which words in the largeness of the extent thereof, -as we hope beyond your Majesty's intentions,-might involve those things which are the proper subjects of parliamentary action and discourse; and whereas your Majesty's letter doth seem to abridge us of the ancient liberty of parliament for freedom of speech, jurisdiction, and just censure of the House, and other proceedings there; wherein, we trust in God, we shall never transgress the bounds of loyal and dutiful subjects; a liberty which we assure ourselves so wise and just a King will not infringe, the same being our undoubted right and inheritance received from our ancestors, and without which we cannot freely debate nor clearly discern of things in question before us, nor truly inform your Majesty, wherein we have been confirmed by your Majesty's former gracious speeches and messages; we are, therefore, now again enforced humbly to beseech your Majesty to renew and allow the same, and thereby take away the doubts and scruples your Majesty's late letter to our Speaker hath brought upon us."

Dec. 11.

of the House

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The reception accorded to the members of the deputation which carried this petition to Newmarket was far better than they expected. The King, they found, had recovered Deputation his temper, and it was only by a jest that he showed his received by deeply-rooted suspicion of the claims put forward by the House. " Bring stools for the ambassadors !" he cried out to the attendants as soon as the members were introduced, so as to give them to understand that he looked upon the body from which they had come as asserting nothing less

the King.

1 Proceedings and Debates, ii. 289-300.




than a right to sovereign power.1 He treated them with great familiarity, and sent them away with a long rambling letter, which he probably supposed to be sufficient to settle the question at issue.

Dec. 14. His answer read in the House.


On the 14th the King's letter was read in the House. had expected, he said, to hear nothing but thanks for all his care to meet their wishes; but he must tell them that the clause which they had added to their petition was contrary to the facts of the case. Whatever they might say, there could be no doubt that they had usurped upon his prerogative, and had meddled with matters beyond their reach. Their protestation that they did not intend to do this was like the protest of the robber who took a man's purse, and then said that he did not mean to rob him. Their excuse that he had virtually invited them to discuss all questions bearing upon a war in the Palatinate was ridiculous. Because he had asked for money to keep up an army at present, and to raise another army in the spring, it no more followed that he was bound at once to declare war against Spain, and to break off the marriage treaty, than it followed that, if he borrowed money from a merchant to pay his troops, he was bound to take his advice on the conduct of the war. It was all very well for them to say that the welfare of religion and the state of the kingdom were matters not unfit for consideration in Parliament; but to allow this would be to invest them with all power on earth, and they would want nothing but the Pope's authority to give them the keys of heaven and purgatory as well.

Having thus disposed of the pretensions of the House, James proceeded to give his own account of the crisis on the Continent, an account in which, to say the least of it, there was as much truth as in that which had been accepted by the Commons. It was Frederick, he said, who, by usurping the

"It seems they had a favourable reception, and the King played with them, calling for stools for the ambassadors to sit down."- Chamberlain to Carleton, Dec. 15, S. P. Dom. cxxiv. 40. Wilson makes James say, "Here are twelve kings come to me!" and, as usual, the joke thus spoiled has been repeated again and again by historians. James was shrewd enough to ascribe the claim of royal power to the collective body, not to individual members.

Bohemian crown, had given too fair an excuse to the Emperor and the Pope to ill-treat the Protestants. He denied that it was true that the King of Spain was aiming at universal monarchy. As to the Spanish marriage, he would take care that the Protestant religion received no prejudice, but he was so far engaged in it, that he could not in honour go back, unless Spain refused to fulfil her obligations. It was a calumny to say that he was cold in religion. It was impossible for them to handle such high matters. Of the details of his diplomacy, and of the intentions of the various Courts of Europe, they were necessarily ignorant. If he were hampered by their interference, foreign princes would cease to put any confidence in his word. They must therefore be satisfied with his engagement that he would do everything in his power to propagate his own religion, and to repress Popery. The manner and form must be left to him. If he accepted their advice, and began a hot persecution of the Catholics, they would soon hear of reprisals upon the Protestants abroad; but no Papist who was insolent should escape punishment, and he would do all that was in his power to prevent the education of the children of the English Catholics in foreign seminaries. Let them, therefore, betake themselves to the consideration of the bills before them. As to their privileges, he added, although he could not allow of their speaking of them as 'their ancient and undoubted right and inheritance,' but had rather that they had said that they were derived from the grace and permission of his ancestors and himself; 'for most of them grew from precedents, which shows rather a toleration than inheritance; yet' as long as they contained themselves within the bounds of their duty, he would be as careful as any of his predecessors to protect their lawful liberties and privileges. All that they needed, therefore, was to beware how they trenched on his prerogative, so as to enforce him to retrench of their privileges those 'that would pare his prerogative and flowers of the crown.' "But of this," he concluded by saying, "we hope there shall never be cause given." 1

The King to the House of Commons, Dec. 11, Proceedings and Debates, ii. 317.

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