Page images


Review of the conduct of Charles the First, from his accession

to the throne to the dissolution of the parliament, March 10, 1628-9.

The causes of this war are not traced so high by A.D. 1624. our historians as they certainly ought to be, and the causes they have been either partially or imperfectly re- war. lated. The grievances of the public are often but slightly mentioned, and in general terms, which never strike with that force which particular instances do; and the proceedings of the parliament for redressing them are confounded, under the same name of rebellion, with the transactions of the presumptuous high court of justice. It may be proper, therefore, for the vindication of the parliament's honour, and for the honour of the English, who do not usually complain till they feel, and are zealous for the dignity of their prince when it is compatible with their liberties, to trace in a

of the civil


A.D. 1509.

A.D. 1624. summary way the rise and progress of the dis

union between the king and the people. " Hen. VIII. Henry the Eighth (a resolute and haughty

prince) began the Reformation in resentment against the pope. He dissolved the abbeys, monasteries, and other religious houses, and distributed great part of the church lands among the nobility and gentry, to secure them in his

interest. Edward VI. What he began for political ends, his son, A.D. 1547. Edward the Sixth, nobly carried on for religious

ones. Q. Mary. The Reformation was scarce settled, when A.D. 1553.

Queen Mary succeeded her brother, and made a hasty and furious return to the Romish church. The nobility and gentry, however, refused to restore the church lands; but Pope Paul the Fifth declaring it was not in his power to give leave

Edward VI.

15 When this preliminary view of the state of Great Britain at the time of Sir Anthony's appearance as a public character was written, our country was singularly destitute of able and impartial historians. It was then necessary to make this recapitulation; and although the labours of Hallam, and many others, have since rendered the minute history of this period familiar to the majority of readers, I have not thought myself entitled to mutilate the work by striking out or abridging these chapters.

that they should be alienated, nothing could have A.D. 1553. long secured the laymen in their possessions but the short reign of Queen Mary, and with her of the papal power in England. Queen Elizabeth, her successor, re-established Queen

* Elizabeth. the reformed religion, and an act was passed in A.D. 1558. her first parliament, for restoring to the crown the ancient jurisdiction, as well ecclesiastical as temporal, and for abolishing all foreign power repugnant to it. The interests of the civil government, and of the national religion, (between which, by our constitution, there is such an immediate connexion,) were guarded as one; and the queen supported and enlarged the protestant interest abroad, as the surest means of preserving the balance of Europe.

The favourites at court, however, invaded so fast the bishops' lands, that the wiser part both of statesmen and churchmen thought it necessary to check their progress in this respect. 16 A stop,

16 The frequent changes in the national religion had encouraged the bishops in possession to leave as little as possible to their heretical successors. Two enactments, passed during the reign of Elizabeth, had in consequence prohibited them from alienating church lands, except upon leases for three lives or twenty-one years. These acts contained, however, an exception in favour of the crown, which enabled Elizabeth to continue to

A.D. 1558. therefore, was put to the alienation of church

lands. Upon this encouragement, some of the dignified clergy said, that their predecessors had gone too far in their concessions, and that they would have acted better if they had made a stand like the Spanish bishops at the council of Trent, who, though they were willing to cast off the pope's authority, yet insisted that episcopacy was jure divino. The supporting them in these pretensions was represented to the queen to be as much the concern of the crown as of the clergy; for, as they would always be dependent on the sovereign for their promotion, the power of the crown would be better and more secretly advanced by their means than by any other.

Though Queen Elizabeth was sufficiently tenacious of her prerogative, she was not seduced

by this kind of reasoning. But when King A.D. 1603. James the First came to the throne, terrified and

prejudiced as he had been by the treatment which he had received from the presbyterians in Scot

James I.

reward her courtiers at the expense of the church. Some of the instances of this regal spoliation, and of the impotent attempts at resistance by the victims, as they are related in Strype's Annals, are highly amusing. It was this exception in favour of the crown which was repealed at the commencement of James's reigo.


A.D. 16

land, he was easily led into such measures as the A.D. 1603. dignified clergy proposed. In his first parliament an act was passed, that no lands of the church should be alienated, but remain firm to the successors in their respective dignities. This might be considered as requisite for a just preservation of the order; but many of the clergy, thinking that a proper time to extend their power, resolved to place themselves above the reach of the civil government. The authority of the church, and the sacredness of the hierarchy, were the themes upon which they were incessantly descanting before their listless congregations. King James's favourite point was an absolute government, and, to obtain this, he readily indulged the clergy in their peculiar opinions; but this only upon the condition that they, in return, should preach up the divine right of monarchy as well as episcopacy. This compact, tacit although it might have been, was religiously acted upon; and thus a doctrine, false in its principles, repugnant to reason, and pernicious in its consequences, became disseminated among the people. A doctrine equally pernicious to the king and the people: to the king, by creating in him wrong notions of his happiness and power; to the people, by sowing

« PreviousContinue »