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7th, 1674, strictly forbidding all persons “ to A.D. 1674. intermeddle with the affairs of state and government, or with the persons of any of his majesty's counsellors or ministers, in their common and ordinary discourses; and farther declaring, that his majesty would proceed with all severity, not only against such persons, but also against those who should be present where such speeches were used without revealing the same in due time.”
This was a step worthy only of a despotic government, and an equal proof of the wickedness and weakness of the ministers. They betrayed by it, to the public, a consciousness of having acted ill, and a resolution to persist in doing so; and they fled to an asylum in which they could not hope for a protection. To shut the eyes, or stop the ears, of people in danger of shipwreck, is impossible; and, therefore, to attempt it is ridiculous. As every man in the ship hath an interest in her safety, he has a right to point out the rocks or shallows upon which the pilots are ignorantly or wilfully running. The ministry had recourse to another refuge, The minis
try endeasafer for themselves, but even yet more perni- vour to cor
rupt the cious to the public; for the first was an act of parliament. arbitrary power, which every man could see,
A.D. 1674. could feel the effects of, and must consequently
resent; the latter was an arrow shot in the dark, which, though not immediately fatal, could not but leave a wound too rancorous to be easily cured. This was a destructive corruption which was now spreading in the parliament: for the court not only by the influence of places, but also by pensions, secured in its interest several members of the house of commons; and thus was a venom infused into the constitution, which would have eaten out the vitals of it, had that parliament continued much longer.
Lord Shaftesbury was well acquainted with Shaftesbury solicitous' this step of the ministers, and was sensible of parliament. the unhappy consequences with which it would
be attended. He concluded that a parliament which was devoted to the king solely from a view to private interest, could not be really useful to the public. As the apprehensions of the people with regard to the designs of the court were very great, he looked on a new parliament as the only means of establishing harmony between the king and the nation. He therefore thought that an application to his majesty to call one would be seasonable and proper; that it was the right of any part of the
for a new
nobility to give advice to the king in the re- A.D. 1674. cess of parliament; and that, by the old constitution, this was their hereditary and undoubted privilege: a glorious privilege! and worthy of being asserted by them; a privilege that, by bringing them nearer to the throne, must add to their dignity; and which, when properly exerted, could not but cause them to be respected by the people, as the constant maintainers of their rights and liberties.
That these were Lord Shaftesbury's sentiments, appears from the following excellent letter to the Earl of Carlisle; which displays likewise his regard for the king and duke, bis attachment to the public, and his firm adherence to his principles.
Feb. 3, 1674-5. “ MY LORD, “I very much approve of what my Lord A.D.
1674-5. Mordaunt and you told me you were about; His letter and should, if I had been in town, readily have of Carlisle. joined with you, or, upon the first notice, have come up: for it is certainly all our duties, and particularly mine, (who have borne such offices under the crown,) to improve any good correspondence or understanding between the royal
to the Earl
family and the people, and not leave it possible for the king to apprehend that we stand on any terms that are not as good for him as necessary for us. Neither can we fear to be accounted undertakers at the next meeting of parliament, for I hope it shall never be thought unfit for any number of lords to give the king privately their opinion when asked; since, in former days, through all the northern kingdoms, nothing of great moment was acted by their kings without the advice of the most considerable and active nobility that were within distance, though they were not of the ordinary privy council; such occasions being not always of that nature as did require the assembling the great council or parliament. Besides, there are none so likely as us, nor any time so proper as now, to give the only advice I know truly serviceable to the king, affectionate to the duke, and secure to the country, (that is, a new parliament,) which I will undertake at any time to convince your lordship is the clear interest of them all.
“ But, in the mean time, I must beg yours and my Lord Mordaunt's pardon that I came not up as I intended; for I hear, from all quarters, of letters from Whitehall that I am coming
up to town; that a great office, with a strange name is preparing for me; and such like. I am ashamed I was thought so easy a fool by those who should know me better; but, I assure your lordship, there is no place or condition will invite me to court during this parliament, nor until I see the king thinks frequent parliaments as much his interest as they are the people's rights; for, until then, I can neither serve the king as I would, nor think a great place safe enough for a second adventure.
“When our great men have tried a little longer, they will be of my mind. In the mean time, no kind of usage shall put me out of that duty and respect I owe to the king and duke: but I think it would not be amiss for the men in great offices, who are at ease and where they would be, to be ordinarily civil to a man in my condition, since they may be assured that all their great places put together shall not buy me from my principles. My lord, I beseech you to impart this to the Earl of Salisbury, my Lord of Falconbridge, and my Lord Holles ; and when you four command me up, I will obey.
“I am sorry my Lord Halifax had no better success in his summer's negotiation; and that his