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CHAPTER V.

A. D. 1593. ÆTAT. 33.

ONE of the principal objects of the author of the libel was to set forth the pacific policy of the King of Spain. It proved to be the immediate forerunner, if not the actual preparative and accomplice, of a new intrigue in Scotland more alarming than any of the rest. And before the reply was finished, several of the most powerful nobles had formally pledged themselves to receive Spanish forces in Scotland, and to raise, by help of Spanish money, forces of their own to join with them. Of this fact the English government received certain intelligence early in January, 1592-3. It was necessary therefore to be prepared for an invasion at both ends of the kingdom at once; and as the double subsidy granted three years before had been already spent in aids to the Netherlands and France, no time was to be lost in summoning a new Parliament and obtaining fresh and liberal supplies.

The Houses met on the 19th of February. The Lord Keeper, in the Queen's presence and by her command, informed them why they had been called, what they were to do, and what not to do. He told them that the King of Spain had since 1588 been furnishing himself with ships of a different build, fitter for our waters; had possessed himself of the principal strongholds in Brittany, places convenient to assail us from by sea; had won a party in Scotland to give landing to his forces there, sent over large sums of money, and received written prom

ises of assistance; and that his purpose was to invade us by land and sea at once, from north and south. Meantime, the Queen's treasure being spent, she had called them "that she might consult with her subjects for the better withstanding of these intended invasions, which were now greater than were ever heretofore heard of." He told them that they were not called to make any new laws, of which there were already so many that an abridgment of those there were was more wanted than an addition to the number; that the session could not be long, for spring was near when gentlemen would be wanted in their counties and the justices of assize in their circuits; therefore that the good hours must not be lost in idle speeches, but employed wholly in the needful business of the time.

In these admonitions there was nothing unusual. No remonstrance was made; no symptoms of opposition manifested; nor did there seem to be any reason for doubting that if the Commons were left to take their ordinary course without further interference, they would do the business willingly and satisfactorily. It is true that they had shown themselves on late occasions very jealous of their trust, and very reluctant to make precedents for double subsidies. But in times of war subsidies were understood to be the constitutional resource. The wars in which the country was then engaged were popular. There was no suspicion of waste or misemployment or ill success in the administration of former grants. And if extraordinary sacrifices were due to extraordinary occasions, never was there a time in which they might have been more reasonably expected than upon the fresh alarm (for the King of Spain's design was not known to the English public before Parliament met) of so formidable a danger. Yet scarcely a week had passed before obstructions and misunderstandings arose, and that in a manner and quarter so unexpected,

that historians have had to seek far, and hitherto I think unsuccessfully, for an explanation of them.

That there had grown up under the leadership of the Earl of Essex a parliamentary "opposition," whose object was to embarrass the ministers in the hope of supplanting them, is a modern suggestion, drawn from modern experiences, without a shadow of direct evidence to support it, and incredible to any one acquainted with those times. To embarrass Queen Elizabeth's government in a crisis of national danger was no man's way to a seat at her council-table. To me it appears more probable that the opposition she met with was legitimately provoked by the Queen herself; for that, seeing the gradual encroachments which for some years Privilege had been making upon Prerogative, she had intended to take advantage of what seemed a favorable crisis, not merely for obtaining those supplies which she was entitled to ask for, but also for establishing one or two precedents in her own favor upon certain points of form which custom had not yet settled. The right of free debate in the Lower House, for instance, had its limits in fact, as we know; but Peter Wentworth had formally disputed them;1 and the dispute, though silenced, had not been decided. So also the rule of voting only one subsidy at a time had been broken by the last Parliament; but it was with an intimation that the case was extraordinary, and a proviso that it should not be taken for a precedent. Now this rule was inconvenient for the public service, and by a little judicious management might be made to lose its prescriptive authority. Again, the Commons had been allowed hitherto to discuss all questions of supply by themselves, without dictation or interference. But since it was not possible to judge how large a supply ought to be offered, without knowing the occasion which called for it; and since the Commons were not then admitted to be

1 28th February, 1586-7. See D'Ewes, p. 411.

fit judges of council-table matters; it would certainly be convenient for the government, and might appear not altogether unreasonable in itself, to introduce a custom of discussing such questions in conference with the Lords. Here then were three constitutional points, all fairly disputable, which the Queen would naturally wish to settle in her own favor; and it probably occurred to her that the urgency of the occasion, and the enthusiastic loyalty which she could so well count upon in times of national danger, might enable her silently to advance a step in these directions. Nor was she altogether mistaken. In the first point she succeeded completely for the time, and without a struggle. For when the Speaker proffered the usual petition for liberty of speech, the Lord Keeper was instructed to answer "that liberty of speech was granted in respect of the Aye and No; but not that every one should speak what he listed; "a declaration which, in strict construction, denied liberty of speech and allowed only liberty of vote. And this principle, so frankly avowed, she took the earliest opportunity of enforcing in practice. For the first proceeding on the part of the Lower House being the delivery by certain members to the Lord Keeper (the House itself not being able to sit because the Speaker was too ill to attend) of a petition relating to the succession of the Crown, the members who delivered it, Peter Wentworth and others, were immediately called before the Council, and committed some to the Tower and others to the Fleet; where they remained, I believe, to the end of the session; thus losing their liberty of vote and speech both. And when it was. proposed to petition the Queen for their release (lest their constituents should complain of having to pay taxes to which their representatives had not consented), answer was made by the privy councillors that "her Majesty had committed them for causes best known to herself," and that to press her with the proposed suit "would only

hinder them whose good they sought;" with which answer the House seems to have been satisfied. This was no novelty, it is true; for many precedents might have been cited in justification; but it was one more added to the list, and a strong one. And so that point was made

good for that time.

How she fared with regard to the two others will appear in the narrative of the proceedings; which I must give at some length, because of the prominent and unexpected part which Bacon played in them. If my interpretation of the Queen's policy be correct, the course he took will be more easily understood.

The question of supply was brought forward on the 26th of February. Sir Robert Cecil set forth at large the danger in which England stood from the King of Spain; his ancient malice, visible in all the proceedings of past years, still as active as ever; his advantages greater than ever, by reason of his recent successes in Lorraine and Brittany, his intrigues in Scotland, and the numbers of the Catholic party gradually increasing. Sir John Wolley (another privy councillor) explained the conditions and designs of the Leaguers in France. And Sir John Fortescue (Chancellor of the Exchequer) followed with a statement of the Queen's finances, past and present; showing that all had been spent upon the great services of the kingdom, in clearing the Crown of debt, in increasing the strength of the navy, in assisting the French king, and protecting the Netherlands; — that subsidies did not now yield above half the sum which they yielded in Henry VII.'s time; and that all borrowed money had been repaid.

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When the case had been thus set forth on behalf of the government, and motion made for "a select and grave Committee to consider of the dangers of the realm and of speedy supply and aid to her Majesty," Bacon

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