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justice in him to suffer it to rest so long in dispute without interruption. But as the debate took more time than the affairs of Christendom could permit, his majesty had thought of an expedient to shorten the business, by commanding him to let them know that he holds Magna Charta and the other statutes all in force, and that he will govern according to them; and that you shall find as much security in his royal word and promise as in the strength of any law you can make."
The House of Commons, not moved by the king's expedient, appointed a committee of lawyers to draw a bill, containing the substance of Magna Charta and the other statutes concerning the liberty of the subject. Another message from the king was deliv. ered by Mr. Secretary Cook, that, " to show clearly that it would not be the king's fault if this be not a happy Parliament, he had commanded him to desire the house clearly to let him know whether they would rest on his royal word, which he did assure them should be really and royally performed.” But on his own account as a privy counsellor, the secretary told the house that he must commit, on the king's order, and neither express the cause to the jailer nor to the judges, nor to any counsellor in England, except the king himself. Yet (he said) “ this power was not unlimited, and was rather a charge and danger; for if by this power he should commit the poorest porter upon what should appear not a just cause, he should suffer a burden heavier than the law could inflict, for he should lose his credit with his majesty and also his place.”
Before the house had come to any conclusion on that message, the secretary delivered, on the 2d of May, another message from the king, “ that time would not admit of more debate or delay, and that the session of Parliament must continue no longer than Tuesday come sevennight at the furthest; in which time his majesty, for his part, would be ready to perform what he had promised ; and if the house were not as ready to do what was fit for themselves, it should be their own faults." It was intimated that, upon assurance of their good despatch and correspondence, it was his majesty's intention to have another session of Parliament at Michaelmas vext, for the perfecting of such things as could not then be done. The Commons, by their speaker, answered the several messages, expressing full trust and confidence in the royal word and promise; yet, as there had been public violation of the laws and the subjects' liberties, by some of the king's ministers, they conceived that no less than a public remedy would raise the dejected hearts of his subjects to a cheerful supply of his majesty, or make them receive content in the proceedings of the house. The king answered by the lord keeper that, to show the sincerity of his majesty's intention, he is content that a bill be drawn for a confirmation of Magna Charta, and the other six statutes insisted upon for the subjects' liberties, but so as to be without additions, paraphrases, or explanations.
But notwithstanding the permission given for a bill, Mr. Secretary Cook, on the next day, again pressed the house to rely on the king's word as an assurance that bound the king further than the law could. He urged that the debate should take place in the house, and not in a committee of the whole house, but Sir John Elliot replied, " that the proceeding in a committee is more honorable and advantageous both to the king and the house ; for that way tends most to truth, as it is a more open way, where every man may add his reasons, and make answer upon the hearing of other men's reasons and arguments.". The debate accordingly proceeded in committee; "and the key was brought up, and none were to go out without leave first asked. Sir Edward Coke persuaded the house to proceed by bill.“ Was it ever known," said he," that general words were a sufficient satisfaction to particular grievances? The king's answer is very gracious; but wiaT IS THE LAW OF THE REALM ? that is the question. I put no diffidence in his majesty; but the king must speak by record, and in particular, and not in general. Let us put up a PETITION OF RIGHT; not that I distrust the king, but that I cannot take his trust but in a parliamentary way.
The Commons having finished the PETITION, desired a conference with the Lords, which was held on the 8th of May, but their proceedings were suspended by a letter from the king, sealed with the royal signet, and delivered by the Duke of Buckingham. Referring to the leave he had given for debate on the highest points of royal prerogative—which none of his predecessors would have permitted—he found it still insisted upon, notwithstanding his several messages, that neither he nor his priry council have power to commit any man without cause shown; whereas it often happened that, should the cause be shown, the service itself would thereby be des troyed and defeated. He informed the Lords that without the overthrow of his sovereignty, he could not suffer that power to be impeached : but he declared that neither he nor his privy council should or would commit or command to prison, or otherwise restrain the person of any man for not lending money to him, nor for any other cause which in his conscience did not concern the public good of himself and his people; that he would not be drawn to pretend any cause, wherein his judgment and conscience were not satisfied; and that in all cases, upon the humble petition of the party, or address of the judges to him, he would readily and really express the true cause of their commitment or restraint, so soon as, with convenience and safety, the same was fit to be disclosed and expressed. This he thought fit to signify, to shorten any long debate upon this question.
The king's letter impressed the House of Lords with a desire to render the petition acceptable to him. They prepared a saving clause of the king's sovereign power—" to leave entire the sovereign power of the king "—which in a conference the Commons rejected. The king also interposed messages to the Lords, urging a speedy decision; but at length, on the 26th of May, the Lords, after several conferences with the Commons, agreed to the petition as prepared by them, with a few verbal alterations. They contented themselves with a declaration, by their own house alone, to the king, that their intention was not to lessen or impeach anything which by the oath of supremacy they had sworn to assist and defend. The petition was delivered on the 28th of May, by the lord keeper, to the king, in the presence of both houses, and it was requested that his majesty would please to give his assent to it in full Parliament.
The substance of this great constitutional statute is as follows: It is the petition of the lords spiritual and temporal and commons, in Parliament assembled, and is addressed to the king. It begins by
1. Reciting the ancient laws against taxa'ion without consent of Parliament; it declares that, notwithstanding such laws, commissions have issued, by which the people have been assembled and required to lend money to your majesty; and many upon their refusal, have had an oath administered to them, not warrantable by the laws and statutes, and have been constrained to become bound to make appearance, and to give attendance before your privy council, and in other places ; and others have been imprisoned, confined, and sundry other ways molested and disquieted. Divers other charges have been laid and levied on the people, in several counties, by lord lieutenants, deputy lieutenants, commissioners for musters, justices of peace, and others, by command or direction from your majesty, or your privy council, against the laws and customs of the realm.
2. Reciting the ancient laws for securing the liberty of the subject, the petition declares that against the tenor of such laws, divers of your subjects have of late been imprisoned without any cause showed ; and when for their deliverance they were brought before your justices, by writs of HABEAS CORPUs, there to undergo and receive as THE COURT should order--and their keepers commanded to certify the causes of their detainer—no cause was certified, but that they were detained by your MAJESTY'S SPECIAL COMMAND, signified by the LORDS OF YOUR PRIVY COUNCIL; and yet were returned back to several prisons, WITHOUT BEING CHARGED WITH ANYTHING TO WHICH THEY MIGHT MAKE ANSWER ACCORDING TO THE LAW.
3. Great companies of soldiers and mariners (it declares) have of late been dispersed into several counties; and the inhabitants, against their wills, have been compelled to receive them into their houses, and there to suffer them to sojourn, against the laws and oustoms of the rea'm, and to the great grievance and vexation of the people.
4. Reciting Magna Charta and the ancient statutes, that no man should be tried, or be adjudged to death, but by the law of the realm, it declares that of late, commissions under your majesty's great seal have issued forth, by which certain persons have been assigned and appointed commissioners, with power and authority to proceed, within the land, according to the justice of MARTIAL LAW, against such soldiers or mariners, or other dissolute persons joining with them, as should commit murder, robbery, felony, mutiny, or other outrage or misdemeanor whatever; and by such summary cause and order as is agreeable to martial law, and is used in armies in time of war, to proceed to the trial and condemnation of such offenders, and to cause them to be executed and put to death, according to the martial law. By pretext whereof some of your majesty's subjects have been put to death, when, if they deserved death, they ought BY THE STATUTES OF THE LAND, AND BY NO OTHER, to have been adjudged and executed ; and other grievous offenders have escaped the punishment due to them by the laws of the realm, by reason that your officers and ministers of justice have unjustly refused or forborne to proceed against such offenders, according to the laws of the realm, upon pretence that the offenders were punishable only by martial law, and by authority of the commissions; which commissions, AND ALL OTHERS OF A LIKE NATURE, are directly contrary to the laws and statutes of your realm.
1. The petitioners prayed that no man hereafter be compelled to make or yield any gift, loan, benevolence, tax, or such like charge, without common consent by act of Parliament; and that none be called to make answer, or take such oath, or to give attend. ance, or be confined or otherwise molested or disquieted concerning the same, or refusal thereof.
2. That no freeman, in any such manner as is before mentioned, bo imprisoned or detained.
3. That your majesty would be pleased to remove the soldiers and mariners, and that your people may not be so burdened in time to come.
4. That the commissions for proceeding by MARTIAL LAW may be revoked and annulled ; and that hereafter no commissions of like nature may issue forth to any person or persons whatsoever to be executed as aforesaid, lest by color of them any of your majesty's subjects be destroyed, or put to death, CONTRARY TO THE LAWS AND FRANCHISE OF
All which they most humbly pray of your most excellent majesty AS THEIR RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES ACCORDING TO THE LAWS AND STATUTES OF THIS REALM: and that your majesty would also vouchsafe to declare that the awards, doings, and proceedings to the prejudice of your people in any of the premises, shall not be drawn hereafter into consequence or example ; and that your majesty would be also graciously pleased, for the far