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regard to the freedom of their persons, and the A.D. 1628. security of their properties. Among others, they Proceedunanimously resolved, “That no free man ought parliament. to be detained or kept in prison, or otherwise restrained, by the command of the king or the privy council, or any other, unless some cause of the commitment, detainer, or restraint be expressed, for which by law he ought to be committed, detained, or restrained.” At the same time, they showed themselves so disposed to assist the king, that they voted him a very large supply of five subsidies, the greatest gift April 3. (as the king himself acknowledged) that ever had been given in parliament. And as he was pleased with the supply itself, he was no less pleased with the manner of granting it; for when Secretary Coke informed him of it, he asked, “ By how many votes it was carried ?” the secretary told him, “ But by one." The king showing a concern at this, “ Sir," said he, “ the house was so unanimous that they made but one voice.” Before the supply was voted, the king had sent the commons a message, that they might secure themselves in their rights and liberties, by bill or otherwise as they thought fit, and assured them that he would give way to it.
A.D. 1628. When the commons had finished their resolu
tions with regard to the liberty of the subject, they transmitted them to the lords for their concurrence; and several members were appointed to manage a conference concerning them. When these resolutions were taken into consideration by the lords, Sir Francis Ashley," the king's serjeant, said, “ The propositions made by the commons tended rather to an anarchy than a monarchy, and that they must allow the king to govern by acts of state;" for which he was committed to custody till he recanted. However, the lords, at a conference, made some propositions to be added to the commons petition of rights; which the latter looked on as an artifice to defeat it. To prevent their resolutions from being carried into a bill, the king ordered the lord keeper to acquaint both houses of parliament (when he himself was present), “ that he held the statute of Magna Charta and the other six statutes insisted on for the subject's liberty to be all in force; that he would maintain all his subjects in the just freedom of their persons, and safety of their estates; and A.D. 1628. that they should find as much security in his majesty's royal word and promise, as in the strength of any law they could make.”
19 We have already had an instance of the private character of this worthy, which seems admirably to have corresponded with his public principles.
The house of commons, however, appointed a committee, consisting of the most eminent lawyers, to draw up a bill concerning Magna Charta, and the other statutes relating to the liberty of the subject. The king, though he had before proposed to them to secure their liberties by a bill, was so averse to this, that, on May the 1st, he sent a message by Secretary Coke, to know whether they would rest on his royal word declared to them by the lord keeper; which message, after a long silence among the members, was taken up with great warmth. In the debate it was said that the subjects had suffered more, in the violation of their ancient liberties, within a few years, than in three hundred years before. Sir Edward Coke, therefore, proposed, “ that they should secure their liberties by a bill, which the king had promised to give way to;" and Sir Thomas Wentworth said, “that their desire to vindicate the subjects' rights by bill was no more than was laid down in former laws, with some modest provision for instruction, performance,
A.D. 1628. and execution.” In the midst of their delibera
tions, the king sent another message to the former purpose, and to acquaint them that he would put an end to the sessions of parliament in less than a fortnight. Upon this, the house resolved upon an answer to all his messages, which was delivered by the speaker, setting forth, “the king's offer to them of a bill for securing their rights and liberties; that they had no intention to encroach on his prerogative; and that the bounds of their desires extended no farther than to some necessary explanations of that which was truly comprehended within the just sense of old
The king returned an answer by the lord keeper, in which he said, “their greatest trust and confidence must be in his goodness; without which nothing they could frame would be of safety or avail to them; that he was content a bill should be drawn for a confirmation of Magna Charta, and the six other statutes insisted on for the subjects' liberties, but without additions, paraphrases, or explanations.” At the same time, his ministers, in the house of commons, pressed the members not to lose time by a bill, but to declare their dependence upon
the king's word: upon which ® Sir Edward A.D. 1628. Coke justly said, “ that general words never were a sufficient satisfaction for particular grievances; that the king must speak by a record, and in particulars, and not in general ; that they could not take the king's trust but in a parliamentary way; that is, the king sitting on his throne in his royal robes and his crown on his head in full parliament, both houses being present. All these circumstances observed, and his assent being entered upon record, made his royal word the word of a king.” Therefore, he moved that the house should, according to the custom of their predecessors, form a petition of right, which, Petition of
right. being confirmed by both houses, and assented to by the king, would be as valid as any act. This was resolved on, and completed May the 8th.
20 It would be well for the fame of Sir Edward Coke if his conduct during this reigu were the only part of bis political life which descended to us. We see him' here as the unflinching guardian of his country's liberties, the uncompromising opponent of a tyrannical court. But if we review his early career, his conduct as attorney-general, his cowardly vituperation of Raleigh, and lastly, his quarrel with King James, the inference becomes too plain that Coke became a patriot from interest, pique, or ambition, but certainly not from principle.