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dissolving this present Parliament. It enacted that the Parliament should not be dissolved, nor prorogued or adjourned, unless by an act of Parliament to be passed for the purpose ; and that neither the House of Peers nor the House of Commons should be adjourned, unless by themselves, or their own order. This act, in rendering Parliament indissoluble but by their own act, contravened a fundamental principle of the constitution, and whilst it superseded the executive authority of the crown, it also took away the elective rights of the people. The king, however, passed it.
Charles next yielded the contest respecting tonnage and poundage, by passing an act granting him those duties for less than two months, which he had claimed for his life. It declared illegal the right for which he had so long contended, by reciting that the duties had been collected against the laws of the realm, in regard that they had not been granted by Parliament, and that the farmers, customers, and collectors had received condign punishment, and it declared that “it is and had been the ancient right of the subjects of this realm that no subsidy, custom, impost, or other charge whatsoever, might or may be laid or imposed upon any merchandise, exported or imported, by subjects, denizens, or aliens, without common consent in Parliament." Charles must have felt humbled when, by accepting and passing that bill, he gave up his claim, constantly insisted upon since his first Parliament. When passing it, he said, in answer to the speaker, “ You cannot but know that I do freely and frankly give over that right which my predecessors have esteemed their own—though I confess disputed, yet that it was never yielded by any one of them. Therefore you must understand this as a mark of my confidence in you thus to put myself wholly upon the love and affections of my people for my subsistence." Charles was next called upon to give his royal assent to two acts for abolishing the court of Star Chamber and the High Commission Court. He postponed his assent to these bills until, as he said, he had time to consider them; and in consequence some discontent arose, which he alluded to in his speech when be after wards
gave the royal assent: “Methinks it seems strange that any one should think I could pass two bills of such importance as these without taking some fit time to consider them; for it is no less than
to alter, in a great measure, those fundamental laws, ecclesiastical and civil, which many of my predecessors have established.
“If you consider (he proceeded) what I have done in this Parliament, discontent will not sit in your hearts. I hope you remember I have granted that the judges hereafter shall hold their places quamdiu bene se gesserint. I have bounded the forest, not according to my right, but according to the late customs. I have established the property of the subjects, as witness the free giving upnot the taking away—the ship money. I have established by act of Parliament the property of the subject in tonnage and poundage, which never was done in any of my predecessors' times. I have granted a law for a triennial Parliament; and given way to an act for the securing of moneys advanced for the disbanding of the armies. I have given free course of justice against delinquents. I have put the laws in execution against papists. . . .
“ For my part I shall omit nothing that may give you just contentment, and study nothing more than your happiness; and therefore I hope you shall see a very good testimony of it by passing these two bills."
The king had called these laws fundamental. The courts which they abolished had been so long used to oppress the subject, by the Tudors as well as the Stuarts, that their abolition was the greatest blow that had yet been given to irresponsible power. The constitutional effect of their abolition was the transfer of all accusations and complaints against the subject from the Star Chamber and High Commission Courts to the courts of common law, there to be tried openly by a jury, according to the law of the land.
The first of these acts is called “ An Act for the Regulating of the Privy Council, and for taking away the court commonly called the Star Chamber.” It begins with a recital of Magna Charta, and its train of statutes for protecting the liberty of the subject, and refers to the statutes of Henry VII. and of Henry VIII., by the foriner of which the Star Chamber was established, or at least moulded into a new form; and it declares that the judges had not kept themselves within the limits of the statute of Henry VII. ; but had undertaken to punish where no law did warrant, and to make decrees for things having no such authority, and to inflict heavier punishments than by any law was warranted. “And forasmuch it proceeds) as all matters examinable or determinable in the court of Star Chamber may have their proper remedy and redress, and their due punishment and correction by the common law of the land, and in the ordinary courts of justice; and the proceedings, censures, and decrees of that court have been found to be an intolerable burden to the subject and the means to introduce an arbitrary power and government; and forasmuch as the council table hath of late times assumed a power to intermeddle in civil causes between party and party, and to determine of the estates and liberties of the subjects, contrary to the law of the land; it ordained that the court, commonly called the Star Chamber, should be absolutely dissolved, taken away, and determined.”
The other act is called "A Repeal of a Branch of Statute, primo Elizabethæ, concerning Commissioners for Causes Ecclesiastical.” It recites the act, and the clause contained in it, by which Queen Elizabeth established the High Commission Court, and that the commissioners had to the great and insufferable wrong and oppression of the king's subjects, used to fine and imprison them; and, therefore, the branch of the statute on which the court was based was repealed and made void ; and persons exercising spiritual or ecclesiastical power by authority derived from the king to inflict fine, imprisonment, or corporal punishment, were deprived of that power.
Charles next conceded the illegality of his proceedings in regard to ship money, the enlargment of forests, and the fines on the refusal of knighthood; and extinguished his claims by giving the royal assent to acts for abolishing them.
The “ Act for the declaring unlawful and void the late proceed. ings touching ship money, and for the vacating of all records and process concerning the same,” declared and enacted that the charge imposed upon the subject for the providing and furnishing of ships, commonly called ship money, and the extra-judicial opinions of the justices and barons, and the writs and the judgment against John Hampden, were contrary to the laws and statutes of this realm, the right of property, the liberty of the subject, former resolutions in Parliament, and the Petition of Right.
The “ Act for the certainty of forests and of the meets, meers
limits, and bounds of the forest,” declared that the limits and bounds of the forests should extend no farther than those reputed and taken in the twentieth year of King James; and that all presentments to the contrary should be void.
The “ Act for the prevention of vexatious proceedings touching the order of knighthood,” declared and enacted that thenceforth no person, of what condition, quality, estate, or degree soever, should be distrained or compelled by any means to take upon him the order or dignity of knighthood; nor suffer or undergo any fine, trouble or molestation, for not having taken on him such order or dignity.
We may here pause to consider the effect of this extensive legislation on the power of the crown. It abolished the principal instruments of tyranny employed by the Tudors, and afterwards by the Stuart monarchs. It declared illegal the expedients to which Charles had resorted to raise money in the absence of Parliament; and it put an end to his long-cherished claim, on the ground of hereditary right, to enjoy tonnage and poundage for his life; giving him in succession grants of that revenue for short periods of weeks or months. The most eminent and powerful of his ministers was attainted and put to death. It was made impossible for him to resist the meeting of Parliament once in three years, and its continuance in session for at least fifty days; while he conferred on the Parliament then existing the prerogative, never before separated from the crown, of continuing or dissolving itself at its will and pleasure. But excepting the latter, which was undoubtedly an unconstitutional interference with the prerogative of the crown, these changes were a just concession to the rights and liberties of the people; and we may also have observed that the speeches in which Charles gave his royal assent to these acts, have none of the defiance and vituperation of his speeches to previous Parliaments, and rather breathe the courteous acquiescence, if they do not also exceed the submission, of a constitutional king.
These concessions were deemed by many a sufficient surrender of the royal power; and Mr. Hyde, Lord Falkland, and others of the popular party, declared in Parliament their disapproval of further demands. After passing the acts, the king went to Scot
land, where Scotch affairs required his presence; and on his return the popular feeling had changed so much in his favor, that he made a public entry into London, where he was received with all imaginary expressions and demonstrations of affection and grandeur." The recorder was warm in his praises and congratulations. could truly say from the representative body of the city, from whence he had his warrant, that they met bis majesty with as much love and affection as ever citizens of London met his royal progenitors; and be added, that these expressions of joy, of love, of loyalty he met with everywhere from the citizens of London. The king answered that he returned with as hearty and kind affections to his people in general, and to the city in particular, as could be desired by his loving subjects; the first he should express by governing them all according to the laws of the kingdom, and in maintaining and protecting the true Protestant religion. In answer to another petition of the city that he would winter at Whitehall, he said that al. though he had proposed to winter at Hampton Court, he should alter his resolution, and with all convenient speed repair to Whitehall. The king afterwards, in a speech to Parliament, referred to his reception, “ not being in doubt,” he said, " that his subjects' affections were any way lessened to him in the time of his absence ; for he could not but remember, to his great comfort, the joyful reception he had at his entry into London.
Would that we could here end the tale, for England in throwing off the royal yoke was fast becoming subject to an influence not less mischievous-Puritanism. A spirit more ar. bitrary than monarchy now controlled the Commons, and from the hour of its complete ascendency we read but of confusion, blood. shed, civil war, and by and by the worse than imperial despotism which reached its incarnation in a Cromwell. The affairs of England never had been—never have been in a happier or more hopeful state than at the period we have now reached; and to the restless, meddling fiend of Puritanism in its next act, we must trace the woful tragedy which ended the unhappy reign of the first Charles.