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ments was wholly imputed to the Duke of Buckingham, and of the third, principally, to the Lord Weston, then lord high treasurer of England. No man,” he observes, can show me a source from whence those waters of bitterness, afterwards tasted, more probably flowed than from these unreasonable, unskilful, and precipitate dissolutions, in which, by an unjust survey of the passion, insolence, and ambition of particular persons, the court measured the temper and affection of the country; and by the same standard the people considered the honor, justice, and piety of the court; and so usually parted, at those sad seasons, with no other respect and charity one towards the other than accompanies persons who never meant to meet but in their own defence, in which the king had always the disadvantage to harbor persons about him who, with their utmost industry, false information, and malice, improved the faults and infirmities of the court to the people; and again, as much as in them lay, rendered the people suspected if not odious to the king."
Charles followed up the dissolution of his third Parliament by publishing a declaration of the causes which moved him to dissolve it, and shortly afterwards by proclamation of unparalleled daring, in which he asserted absolute power over the Parliament and people. Referring to rumors spread by ill-disposed persons, he thought it expedient to make known his royal pleasure, that he did not purpose to overcharge his subjects by any new burden, but to satisfy himself with the duties received by his father, which he neither could nor would dispense with. And as to false rumors that he was about again to call a Parliament, he said that although he had showed, by his frequent meeting with his people, his love to the use of Parliament, yet the late abuse having, for the present, driven him out of that course, he should account it presumption for any to prescribe any time to him for Parliaments: the calling, continuing, and dissolving them being always in the king's own power. He should be more inclinable to meet a Parliament again when his people should see more clearly into his intents and actions; when such as had bred this interruption should receive their condign punishment; and those that were misled by them and such ill reports, should come to a better understanding of him and themselves.
Such a proclamation could only have been is ued by a king conscious of power and resolved to use it; and could only have been received with silent acquiescence by a people who acknowledged that power, and their inability to resist it. The imprisoned patriots who had led the House of Commons could no longer stimulate the people nor resist the royal aggressions, whilst their imprisonment operated as a terror to those who were inclined to follow a patriotic cause.
The subservience of the judges prevented any hope of stemming the king's will in the courts of law; and the Parliament, the only arena for free discussion, was now denounced as a guilty institution, not to be called together again until it had learnt the lesson of submission.
The proceedings against the members were continued with great oppression. The judges were questioned by the attorneygeneral
, for the purpose of obtaining their private opinions as to the penal liability of the members in the courts of law, for their conduct in the House of Commons. Informations were insti. tuted against some of them in the tar Chamber, and against Sir John Elliot, Denzil Holles, and Benjamin Valentine, in the king's bench.
Writs of habeas corpus having been issued to bring up the latter from the prison of the king's bench, they were, by the king's order, and to elude the judgment of the court, transferred to the Tower. They remained there through the long vacation, until November; and being then brought up to the king's bench, the judges having previously conferred with the king; pronounced judgment that they ought to be bailed upon giving security for their good behavior. A decision so contrary to the spirit and purpose
of the writ of habeas corpus, and which implied a cor fession of culpability without trial, could not be submitted to; and the prisoners demanded to be bailed in point of right, and if not of right, they did not demand it. They were remanded to the Tower, and were required to plead to the information. They demurred to the jurisdiction of the court, as being incompetent to try supposed offences done in Parliament, but the demurrer was overruled, and the prisoners persisting in their refusal to plead, sentence was pronounce against them. They were ordered to be imprisoned during the king's pleasure; and not to be delivered until each gave security for his good behavior, and made submis
sion and acknowledgment of his offence. Sir John Elliot, inasmuch as the court thought him the ringleader, was fined £2,000, Mr. Holles, 1,000 marks; and Mr. Valentine, £500. These patriotic men preferred imprisonment to the dishonor of acknowledging their conduct in Parliament to be an offence against the law; and Sir John Elliot died in prison.
It now appeared hopeless to contend against the power of the king; and some, whose ardent patriotism seemed to promise no reward, were gained over to the king's party and accepted office under him. The king further strengthened his position by making peace first with France and afterwards with Spain ; and Lord Clarendon informs us that “ there quickly followed so excellent a composure throughout the whole kingdom, that the like peace and plenty and universal tranquillity, for ten years, was never enjoyed by any nation.”
But all the principles of the constitution--the laws relating to taxation, and even the king's own proclamation that he would impose no new burdens--were disregarded. Tonnage and poundage were collected by order of the king's council. New and greater impositions were laid on trade. Obsolete laws were revived and vigorously executed. The ancient prerogative enjoyed by the crown of compelling its tenants in capite to take upon them the order of knighthood was revived; and, notwithstanding a restraining statute of Edward II., proclamations were made in every county, summoning all men of full age seized of lands or rents of the annual value of £40 or more, not being knights, to appear personally in the king's presence before a certain day to receive the order and dignity of knighthood. If they made default they were subjected to grievous fines and vexations. Thus, says Lord Clarendon, “ the king received a vast sum of money from persons of quality, or of any reasonable condition, throughout the kingdom, by this expedient; which, though it had a foundation in right, in the circumstances of proceeding was very grievous."
Furthermore the oppressions of the ancient forest laws were restored. The ancient boundaries, which had been settled in the reign of Edward III., were by virtue of packed juries extended so as to include adjacent lands, and thus the attempt was made to set up new forests in many parts of the kingdom; and the right thus
pretended to belong to the crown was only yielded to the rightful owners in consideration of heavy fines, or great annual rents. This burden," says Lord Clarendon, "lighted most upon persons of quality and honor, who thought themselves above ordinary impressions, and were therefore likely to remember it with more sharpness.”
But the most memorable of these unconstitutional and oppressive exactions was that of SHIP MONEY. This was the invention of Noy, who had seceded from the popular party, and become the king's attorney-general. His investigation into old records led to the discovery that in ancient times, when danger of war arose, the seaports and maritime counties had been called upon to furnish ships for the protection of the kingdom; and upon that basis he planned an expedient for raising a large and permanent revenue for the king. The first attempt was made in August, 1634, on the citizens of London ; but we shall pass to the time (May, 1635) when the scheme, after the death of Noy, was extended by Lord Keeper Finch to the inland as well as the maritime counties of England and Wales and especially to that instance which has rendered the name of John HAMPDEN immortal in the annals of the country.
By the plan put in force, writs were issued under the great seal to the sheriffs of all the English and Welsh counties, directing that each county should provide ships of various burden; but which, in the instance of the county of Bucks, in which Hampden resided, was a ship of war of 450 tons, with 180 men, guns, gunpowder, double tackling, victuals, and all other things necessary. It was ordered that she should be brought to Portsmouth on a day named; and from that time, that the county should furnish also victuals and mariner's wages and all other necessaries for twenty-six weeks. But as it was never intended that an actual ship should be provided, the sheriff was further commanded, with the aid of the
mayors and bailiffs of the several cities and boroughs within his county, to assess the requisite money on the several boroughs and freeholders of the county; and to return the assessment, with the names of the persons charged, in a schedule to the writ. If payment were not voluntarily made by the party assessed, compulsory process was to be issued to enforce it.
The levy, however obnoxious, had been continued annually for
four years, producing a revenue of £200,000 a year, when public opinion set strongly against its legality. An attempt was made to fortify it by the opinions of the judges. They were summoned to the Star Chamber in March, 1636, where a case and question were put into their hands, signed by the king and enclosed in a regal letter. The judges gave their unanimous opinion in affirmation of the question put to them-that, “ when the good and safety of the kingdom in general is concerned and the whole kingdom in danger, your majesty may by writ under the great seal of England, command all your subjects, at their charge, to provide and furnish such number of ships, with men, munition, and victuals, and for such time as you shall think fit, for the defence and safeguard of the kingdom from such danger and peril; and that by law you may compel the doing thereof in case of refusal or refractoriness. And we are also of opinion that your majesty is the sole judge both of the danger, and when and how the same is to be prevented and avoided." This opinion became celebrated as an "extra-judicial opinion;" and Lord Keeper Finch signified the king's command that it should be entered in all the courts of Westminster, and that the judges should publish it through all their circuits; and he inflicted the keenest rebuke of the baseness and subserviency of the judges, by congratulating them that the king had descended to communicate with them.
The king and his ministers, having secured the judges, could proceed with confidence to put down opposition. Writs of scire facias were issued against the defaulters in the county of Bucks, requiring them to pay the money or to appear in court and show cause against the demand; and the sheriff returned “that he had made it known (quod sciri fecit) to John Hampden Esq., who was assessed at 20 shillings, and he hath not paid it.”
Hampden justified his refusal of payment, and raised the question of the right of the crown, by a demurrer to the writ of scire facias, which put at issue the law the writ was issued to enforce. The case was argued before the twelve judges in the court of Exchequer Chamber, in April, 1638. The argument occupied twelve days. All the old laws and authorities were cited, which showed that the subject could not be taxed without the consent of Parliament, and finally the confirmation of those laws by the Petition of Right