« PreviousContinue »
A.D. 1640. trace back events, as we ought to do, to their first
causes, must the king's subsequent misfortunes be chiefly imputed.
Whilst the commons directed their attention to ings of the parliament. the preservation of their country's liberties and
the redress of public grievances, the king fixed his only upon his own necessities; nor did there appear in him any sincere design of listening to the nation's complaints. At his desire, the lords came to a vote, “ That his majesty's supply should have precedency before any other matter in consideration whatsoever;" and therefore desired a conference with the commons, to let them know their reasons for the same. The commons immediately resented this, and resolved, that the lords proposing a supply, and a time for them to proceed upon it, was a breach of their privileges. At a conference which ensued upon this occasion, they insisted upon a reparation, and that the lords should not, for the future, take notice of any. thing debated by them till they should think proper to declare it to their house. In the mean time they proceeded with great spirit and application upon the great task they had undertaken, and evinced a serious purpose to repel every encroachment of the crown. While they were
debating upon the bringing up of a report made A.D. 1640. by Mr. Maynard concerning ship-money, the lords sent to desire another conference: the house was divided whether to yield to it or no; and, by a majority of above a hundred votes, the commons resolved not to postpone the consideration of the grand business of ship-money for the conference. To induce the lords, however, to join with them in a representation of their grievances to the king, they came to several resolutions, which a committee was appointed to offer to the lords at a conference. The king, finding this disposition in the commons, sent a message to them by Sir Henry Vane, to quicken the supply; which he repeated two days afterwards. He told them, "That upon their granting twelve subsidies, to be presently passed, and to be paid in three years, (with a proviso that it should not determine the sessions,) his majesty would not only for the present forbear the levying any ship-money, but would give way to the utter abolishing of it by any course which themselves should like best; and for their grievances, he would give them as much time as might be, now, and the next Michaelmas.”
Though a proviso was proposed by the king to
A.D. 1640. be added to the subsidy bill, that this should not
determine the sessions, yet the asking such a supply for three years, before any grievances were redressed, was a sufficient intimation that they could not afterwards depend upon a long continuation of the present parliament; nor until the twelve subsidies were spent, and the three years expired, could they hope for the meeting of a new one. The commons immediately took the message into consideration, and the day was consumed in debate. Upon adjourning, they desired Sir Henry Vane to acquaint the king that they intended the next day to proceed in the farther consideration thereof. They met at the usual hour, but the speaker did not attend; for Secretary Windebank went early to his house, and, according to command, carried him to Whitehall; and about eleven o'clock that day (the 5th of May) the
commons were sent for to attend the king, and Parliament the parliament was dissolved. The king affected,
as usual, to make a distinction between the houses, for he addressed himself only to the lords, passing many encomiums on their conduct, and using
26 The houses then usually met at eight o'clock in the morning, and adjourned at twelve; but during these debates they continued sitting until six in the afternoon.- Clarendon.
very reproachful language towards the com- A.D. 1640. mons.
Lord Clarendon acknowledges, “ that it could never be hoped that more sober and dispassionate men would ever meet together in that place, or fewer who brought ill purposes with them;" and no one could imagine what offence they had given, which put the king upon the resolution of dissolving them. The leaders of this parliament were, however, the leaders in the subsequent one; their conduct was the same, as were likewise their complaints.* 27
* Among the members of the these, Selden had been in parliament in November 1640, several of the former parliathere were no eminent ones ments, had exerted bimself who were not in that of April, strenuously for the subject's except Sir John Clotworthy, liberties, and had been imMessrs. Jeoffry Palmer, Selden, prisoned on that account. Ludlow, and Whitlocke: of
7 It was, however, much doubted by the leaders of the popular party, whether this house was sufficiently resolute for the emergency. Clarendon says, that, within an hour after the dissolution, he met Mr. St. John, “who had naturally a great cloud in his face, and was very seldom known to smile." St. John at this time, however, appeared remarkably cheerful, and to Mr. Hyde's lamentations upon the unseasonable dismissal of this wise parliament, replied that “all was well, and it must be worse before it could be better; this parliament could never have done what was necessary to be done.”—Clarendon, vol. i.
A.D. 1640. The king, though he found his necessities so Arbitrary great, and the nation in convulsion, did not recede ued. from any part of his former conduct; but, as
if he made it a point of honour to act in every instance in defiance of his people, he continued steadfastly to pursue all those measures against which the commons had declared themselves.
During their short session the house had come to several resolutions which they had offered to the lords at a conference. Among other things they had resolved, “ That one head of the conference should be the complaints that had been made concerning the punishing of men out of parliament for things done in parliament, in breach of their privileges.” The very next day after the dissolution, Lord Brooke's study, cabinet, and
p. 218. The gloomy republican was probably right; it appears doubtful whether this house would even have had the courage to enter upon their journals a formal protest against the levying of ship-money. In their opinions upon the illegality of this impost, they certainly showed themselves nearly unanimous, and they proposed it as one of the points of conference with the lords; but a distinct resolution upon this subject was what Clarendon thought the popular leaders would not have had the confidence to attempt, nor the credit to compass. This historian's praise is certainly a good ground for suspicion. But the conduct of the king overcame every loyal scruple. The next parliament lost all awe of the regal spoliator.