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moned, the Peers were allowed to assemble, and "the Grand Council" was constituted. In his address to them, the King, according to the information he had received from the Lord Keeper, stated, "that upon sudden invasions, where the dangers were near and instant, it had been the custom of his predecessors to assemble the Great Council of the Peers; and, by their advice and assistance, to give a timely remedy to such evils which could not admit a delay so long as must, of necessity, be allowed for the assembling of parliament." But Lord Clarendon says, "this assembly of the Peers was a new invention, not before heard of; or so old, that it had not been practised in England for some hundreds of years:" and, in truth, since the time of Henry III., when the Commons became a constituent part of the legislature, there had been no instance of the Peers being summoned without them to deliberate on public affairs. As nothing was done at this Council, historians have been much puzzled to explain the motive for calling it; but there can be little doubt that when the writs for it issued, the intention was that it should take upon itself all the functions of parliament, and that it was, by a coup-d'état, to supersede the House of Commons, which had been found so troublesome. The attempt created great alarm among the middling and lower orders of the people; and was regarded as another proof of a deep-laid scheme to crush public liberty.



new parliament,


Although Charles announced to the Great Council that he Writs for a had already given orders to his Lord Keeper to issue writs for a parliament, the general conviction was, that this was the Sept. 24. result of his altered purpose, and that the nation was to have been taxed by an ordinance of the House of Lords. To save appearances they held several meetings, - advised the negotiation with the Scots, which ended in the treaty of Ripon,and sent a deputation to London, to assist in borrowing money for the support of the army. They then all quietly dispersed.


A. D. 1640.

the Long



ON the 3d of November began the most memorable parliament recorded in our annals. Instead of the usual grand procession, the King, attended by the Lord Keeper and a Meeting of few of the great officers of state, came privately by water from Whitehall, and landed at the parliament stairs, near where Westminster Bridge now stands. The King, after a few general observations, in a very conciliatory and touching tone, said he had commanded his Lord Keeper to give a particular account of what had happened since the last dissolution,


Artful address of the Lord Keeper against the Scots.

Finch's address was very artful; his great object being to
divert indignation from himself to the Scots. Having eulo-
gised the bravery, and genius, and greatness of the natives of
England, he boldly denied that they had ever been con-
quered either by Saxons, Danes, or Normans.
"It were

an easy task," he said, "to make it appear that they never
changed the old established laws of England, nor ever brought
any new, so that you have the frame and constitution of a
commonwealth, made glorious by antiquity; and, with states
as with persons and families, certainly an uninterrupted pedi-
gree doth give lustre." He then pointed out the extreme
presumption of the Scots, in passing with an army the rivers
Tweed and Tyne, seizing upon Newcastle, and levying con-
tributions on Northumberland and Durham "to the prejudice
of monarchy, and rendering less glorious this kingdom."
Next came the indispensable necessity of instantly providing
funds for supporting an army, by which the invasion might
be opposed, the King's authority vindicated, and the honour
of the country maintained. Aware of the ill construction
that had been put upon the Council of the Peers at York, he


pretended to say that it was after a custom which had been fre- CHAP. quently used: "This was not done to prevent, but to prepare for a parliament. It was not to clash or interfere with this assembly, by acting or ordering any thing which belongeth to this high and supreme jurisdiction; but only to give their assistance for the present to render things more fit for this great assembly. They could never attempt, nor had the least thought to make, by any act or order, any thing tending to charge the subject." †

with the


Nevertheless, there was a greater disposition to sympathise Sympathy with the Scots than to raise an army for their destruction, as they declared their only object was to lay their grievances before their Sovereign. The elaborate denial of all bad intentions in calling the council of the Peers at York strengthened the previous suspicions on this subject, and the Commons only waited till their Speaker was chosen that they might proceed against the authors of their grievances,-of whom the Lord Keeper himself was considered one of the most guilty.

Lord Straf

In a few days he had a specimen of the temper of the CommitCommons, and a forewarning of his own fate,—in the impeach- ment of ment, suddenly voted with closed doors, against the Earl of ford. Strafford; and, as the organ of the Peers, he was obliged to issue the order for the commitment of his colleague, and to direct that he should at once be carried off by the Serjeant at arms, without then being permitted to say a word in his own defence.‡

Finch intrigues

with the


It is said that Finch now gave out privately that he was willing to go over to the popular party, and to do every thing he could to assist them, and that he had actually made some popular impression on the most violent leaders, who hoped to have turned him into a useful tool; but that Lord Falkland, Hyde, and the more moderate reformers, put an end to the negotiation, thinking that he might, in his new-born zeal for liberty, suggest measures which would be dangerous to the monarchy.

Although Camden and Selden flourished about this time, it is certain that the general mass of men of education were by no means so well acquainted with the history and antiquities of the country as at the present day,—or the Lord Keeper durst not have ventured on such an assertion.

† 2 Parl. Hist. 630.

Ibid. 734.


The Lords seem to have originated no proceeding before Finch's fall, except an inquiry into the manner in which the studies and the repositories of Lord Warwick and Lord Brook ings in the had been searched at the conclusion of the last parliament


House of


Prosecution of Lord Keeper Finch.

within time of privilege; and upon this occasion he took the liberal side, although the acts complained of must have been done with his privity. Sir William Beecher, the clerk of the council, being brought to the bar, the Lord Keeper demanded of him "by what warrant he had searched and carried away the papers of the aforesaid Peers?" The witness having demurred to answer, on the ground "that he was the King's sworn servant, and that he must acquaint the King with the matter before he answered," the Lord Keeper ordered him to show his warrant, and blamed him for naming the King in the business; and, he again refusing to give a direct answer till the King was made acquainted with it, the Lord Keeper told him that "the Lords did take him to be the chief actor of the fact, and were resolved to proceed against him as the principal." Sir William was finally committed to the Fleet, but in two days after, on acknowledging his error, he was released. At this time there certainly was a large majority of the Lords against the Court, and, though attached to the monarchy, eager for a correction of the abuses which had prevailed both in the church and the state. But as, according to the respective functions of the two Houses as finally settled in Floyd's case, they were to sit as Judges, the Commons being the accusers, they properly remained quiet till charges should regularly be brought before them.

In the meanwhile, the Commons having liberated Prynne, Bastwick and Burton, and procured the commitment of Strafford and Laud to the Tower, proceeded against Lord Keeper Finch as the person next most obnoxious to them. The chief grounds of complaint against him were his conduct as Speaker, in refusing to put the question; his oppressive perversion of the Forest Laws; his endeavours to incense the King against parliaments; and, above all, his conduct with respect to ship money, in obtaining the extrajudicial opinion of the Judges in his judgment against Hampden, and in declaring on his circuit

that the right to ship money was so inherent in the Crown that CHAP. no act of parliament could take it away.



Bagshaw, the member for Southwark, referring to the Speech of Lord Keeper's recent honeyed words, said, "If these trou- Bagshaw blers of our Israel do go unpunished, it will never be better him. with us; for now, during parliament, like frozen snakes, their poison dries up; but let the parliament dissolve, and then their poison melts and scatters abroad, and doth more hurt than ever. What then must be done? Why, what the

plaster cannot do must be done with the saw:

Ense recidendum est, ne pars sincera trahatur.

I cannot better English it than in the words of a King: Let them be cut off in their wickedness that have framed mischief as a law."


his im

The formal motion for Finch's impeachment was brought Lord Falkforward by the virtuous, moderate, and loyal Lord Falkland, land moves who said "this great delinquent pursued his hatred to the peachment. fountain of justice, by corrupting the streams of it—the laws, and perverting and corrupting the Judges who administered it. He endeavoured to annihilate the ancient and notorious perambulations of particular forests, the better to prepare himself for annihilating the ancient and notorious perambulations of the whole kingdom, the metes and boundaries between the liberties of the subject and sovereign power, to bring all laws from his Majesty's courts into his Majesty's breast. He gave our goods to the King, our lands to the deer, and our liberties to the sheriffs; so that there was no way in which we should not have been oppressed and destroyed if his power had been equal to his will. Being a sworn Judge of the law, he has not only given his judgment against law, but has been the solicitor to corrupt all the other Judges to concur with him in perverting it."*

Some of the leading men, in consequence of the intrigue I have referred to, wished to screen him; and, suggesting that they had already too much business on their hands, pro

* 2 Parl. Hist. 685.

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