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ther comfort and safety of your people, to declare your royal will and pleasure—that in the things aforesaid, all your officers and ministers shall serve you according to the laws and statutes of this realm, as they tender the honor of your majesty and the prosperity of this kingdom.
The king attended in the House of Lords on the 2d of June, to give his royal assent to the petition, in the presence of the Lords ard Commons. It was read over by the clerk; but instead of adopting the ancient form of the royal assent—"Soit droit fait comme est desire "-the king made the following answer :
“ The king willeth that right be done according to the laws and customs of the realm; and that the statutes be put in due execution, that his subjects may have no cause to complain of any wrong or oppressions, contrary to their just rights and liberties; to the preservation whereof he holds himself, in conscience, as well obliged, as of his own prerogative.”
On the return of the Commons to their house the king's answer was read, and dissatisfaction was expressed at the departure from the legal form. But the consideration of it was postponed, for another matter had arisen, more absorbing than even that of the liberty of the subject.
The Church sympathized with the king in his struggle for prerogative, and the pulpit had been used to intimidate the people by the terrors of Divine punishment from resisting the royal demands. Among these clerical politicians, one Dr. Mainwaring had become conspicuous for his enforcement of unconditional loyal. ty. He had preached two sermons before the king, and a third in his parish church, and these he afterward published in a book entitled Religion and Allegiance. He maintained that the king's royal command imposing taxes and loans without consent of Parliament was so binding on the conscience of a subject of the kingdom that he could not refuse payment without peril of damnation ! And he moreover enforced it as a principle that the authority of Parliament was not necessary for the raising of aids and subsidies. Such a conversion of the Church into a political arena is always fraught with danger to a commonwealth. Nothing is so beneficial to society as the faithful preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ; and nothing is so great a curse as the perversion of the pulpit to the purposes of politics; but in England, where the Church and State are united, the use by the king of so potent an instrument as the established Church for the dissemination of his principles of absolutism was manifestly not to be endured.
The Commons, therefore, prepared charges against Mainwaring, which they presented to the House of Lords, and called upon that house to make inquiry, and bring him to justice. The king tried to avert the Commons' proceedings by repeated messages to Lords and Commons, promising a faithful adherence to the Petition of Right, notwithstanding the irregularity of form in the assent, but finally intimating his intention to close the session on the 11th of the month ; "and because that could not be, if the house entertain more business of length, he required of them not to enter or proceed with any new business which might spend greater time, or which might lay any scandal or aspersion on the state, government, or ministers thereof."
This message produced a debate and a scene in the House of Commons that should not be lost sight of in our constitutional history. A restriction upon their liberties so important as one prohibiting them from censuring the king's ministers, could not be passed over in such a Parliament. A debate was opened, in which Sir John Elliot was the second speaker. He commented on that part of the message, “ that they were not to enter on any business which might lay some aspersions on the government.” “It is said also,” he proceeded, " as if we cast some aspersions on bis majesty's ministers. I am confident no minister, howsoever dear, can ” Here the speaker started up from the chair, and supposing that Sir John Elliot intended to censure the Duke of Buckingham, he said, “There is a command laid upon me to interrupt any that should go about to lay an aspersion upon the ministers of state.” A deep silence followed ;--the speaker desired leave to go
forth for half an hour; and the house ordered that he might go forth, if he pleased.
The house, in his absence, resolved itself into committee. The first member who spoke was in consternation; he said, “ That for the speaker to desire to leave the house in
a manner was never
heard of before, and he feared would be ominous.” The next said there were two ways of proceeding : to go to the Lords, or to the king. He thought," the latter our proper cause, as it doth concern our liberties; and let us not fear to make a remonstrance of our rights.” Sir Edward Coke, after quoting several ancient instances of the interference of Parliament with kings' ministers, said, “I think the Duke of Buckingham is the cause of all our miseries, and till the king be informed thereof, we shall never go out with honor, or sit with honor here. As for going to the Lords, that is not via regia ; our liberties are now impeached; we are deeply concerned. It is not via regia, for the Lords are not participants in our liberties. It is not the king, but the duke that saith, 'We require you not to meddle with state government, or the ministers thereof.'” Several members attributed these evils to the prevalence and permission allowed to popery, and because those that use the king's power seek an utter subversion of our religion.” Another said, “ It is not the Duke of Buckingham alone that is the cause of the evils, but there are other great persons worthy of blame;" to which it was replied, “Take away the one, and the rest will vanish.” Many found excuse for the king, saying, “ It is not King Charles counselling himself, but ill counsel followed that is given him by ill counsellors.”' The house was preparing to put the question, " That the Duke of Buckingham shall be instanced to be the chief and principal cause of all their evils," when the speaker returned with a message from the king, to whom he went when he left the chair—" That his majesty commands for the present, they adjourn the house till to-morrow morning, and all committees cease in the mean time,”—and the speaker adjourned the house accordingly.
The king did not maintain the absolute position which had produced this scene. He sent, on the 6th of June, a message to the Commons, that he had no meaning of barring them of their just right, but only to avoid all scandals on his past counsel and actions; and that his ministers might not be, nor himself, under their names, taxed for their counsel to him. The speaker confessed that, when he left the house with its permission, he went to the king, who confirmed the latter message, stating that, It bars you not of your right in matter; nay, not in manner. The house for the present accepted the explanation as satisfactory.
The Commons had now leisure to consider the king's evasive answer to the Petition of Right. At a conference with the Lords, held on the 7th of June, both houses agreed to address the king, " that he would please to give a clear and satisfactory answer, in full Parliament, to the petition.” The message having been communicated to the king, he appointed that day, at four in the afternoon, when he came to the House of Lords; and the speaker, with the Commons being in attendance, the king commanded the clerk of Parliament to cut out his former answer entered in the journal, and he, at the same time, gave him another. After a speech from the lord keeper, requesting a more clear signification of the royal assent, the king made a short speech defending his former assent as sufficient, but concluding with, “ Read your petition, and you shall have an answer that I am sure will please you.” The petition having been read, the clerk gave the king's assent—"Soit droit fait comme il est désiré." “Let right be done as is desired," and the petition then became, in form and substance, an Act of Parliament.
It is recorded in the Lords' journals that, at the conclusion of the business, the Commons gave a great and joyful applause; and other authorities mention that they returned to their house with unspeakable joy, and resolved so to proceed as to express their thankfulness. The king added to the general satisfaction, by sending a message to the Commons-in anticipation of a request they were about to make consenting that the petition and his answer should be recorded in the Courts of Westminster, as well as the Houses of Parliament. It is now time to give this great document in full.
The Petition of Right.
The Petition exhibited to his Majesty by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in the present Parliament assembled, concerning divers Rights and Liberties of the Subjects, with the King's Majesty's Royal Answer thereunto in full Parliament.
To the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
Humbly show unto our Sovereign Lord the King, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in Parliament assembled, That whereas it is declared and enacted by a Statute made in the Time of the Reign of King Edward the First, commonly called Statutum de Tallagio non concedendo, That no Tallage or Aid shall be laid or levied by the King or his Heirs in this Realm, without the good Will and Assent of the Archbishops, Bishops, Earls, Barons, Knights, Burgesses, and other the Freemen of the Commonalty of this Realm; and by Authority of Parliament holden in the five and twentieth Year of the Reign of King Edward the Third, it is declared and enacted, That from thenceforth no Person should be compelled to make any Loans to the King against his Will, because such Loans were against Reason and the Franchise of the Land; and by other Laws of this Realm it is provided, That none should be charged by any Charge or Imposition called a Benevolence, nor by such like Charge : by which, the Statutes before mentioned, and other the good Laws and Statutes of this Realm, your Subjects have inherited this Freedom, That they should not be compelled to contribute to any Tax, Tallage, Aid or other like Charge not set by common Consent in Parliament: