Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

The expedition was wholly unsuccessful, and the people, finding themselves at war with both France and Spain, became alarmed at their defenceless state. A general desire was expressed that Parliament should assemble. The king held a great council at Whitehall, to which Sir Robert Cotton was called to give his advice. He advised that a Parliament should be called, at which the king should endeavor, by a gracious yielding to their just petitions, to win the people's hearts, which would give him their purses; and that Buckingham, to remove the people's personal dislike toward him, should appear as a prominent adviser for calling the Parliament. “ But could it be imagined,” says Lord Clarendon, “ that those men would meet again, in a free convention of Parliament, without a sharp and severe expostulation and inquisition into their own right, and the power that had imposed upon that right?”

THIRD PARLIAMENT.

A new Parliament met on the 17th of March, 1627–8, in the third year of Charles's reign. It had been deemed advisable to release the persons imprisoned for refusing the loan; and seventyeight, of whom some were chosen into the new Parliament, were released. Charles opened it in a threatening and unconciliatory speech. “ There is none here,” he said, “ but knows that common danger is the cause of this Parliament, and that supply, at this time, is the chief end of it. .... I will use but few persuasions; for if these be not sufficient, then no eloquence of men or angels will prevail. If you (as God forbid) should not do your duties, in contributing what the state at this time needs, I must, in the discharge of my conscience, use those other means which God hath put into my hands, to save that which the follies of some particular men may otherwise hazard to lose. Take not this as a threatening, but an admonition; for I scorn to threaten any but my equals.”

The Commons, as in the preceding Parliament, all took the sacrament, and at their desire the king appointed a general fast. The late proceedings furnished them with numerous grievances; and complaints were made against the Government for billeting of soldiers upon the people, raising money by loans, and, above all, for the imprisonments for refusal of the loan ;-and especially for the violation of the principle of the writ of habeas corpus in the case of the five gentlemen whom the judges recommitted to prison because it was returned that they were committed by command of the king. A motion was made for a committee of grievances; and the utmost concession which the king's secretary could obtain, in the way of attention to his demand of ships and men for the king's use, was, that the same committee should take the king's propositions into consideration. The house went into committee, with instructions to take into consideration the liberty of the subject in his person and in his goods, and also the king's supply. The grievances were reduced in the debate that followed to six heads : 1. Attend. ance at the council board; 2. Imprisonment; 3. Confinement; 4. Designation to foreign employment; 5. Martial law; 6. Undue proceedings in matters of judicature.

Sir Peter Hayman described to the house the manner in which he was dealt with by the council, and sent to the Palatinate. "I was called before the lords of the council; for what, I knew not; but I heard it was for not lending on a privy seal. I told them, if they will take my estate, let them; I would give it up; lend I would not. They laid to my charge my unwillingness to serve the king. I said I had my life and my estate to serve my country and my religion. They told me that if I did not pay, I should be put upon an employment of service. I was willing. After ten weeks waiting, they told me I was to go with a lord into the Palatinate, and that I should have employment there, and means befitting. I told them I was a subject, and desired means.

Some put on very eagerly, some dealt nobly. They said I must go on my own purse. I told them, nemo militat suis expensis. Some told me I must go. I began to think, what must I. None were ever sent out in that way. Lawyers told me I could not be sent. Having this assurance, I demanded means, and was resolved not to stir but upon those terms, and in silence and duty I denied. Upon this, having given me a command to go, after twelve days they told me they would not send me as a soldier, but to attend on an ambassador. I knew that stone would hit me, therefore I settled my troubled estate and addressed myself to that service."

The debate was continued on the other heads. Confinement was distinguished from imprisonment, as being the restraint of a subject to his own house or elsewhere. But it was said) either was an interference with that liberty which is the right of the subject, and of which none can be deprived but by the law of the land. The remedy for regaining the liberty of the person when illegally restrained is the writ of habeas corpus; which was shown in the debates to be coeval with the statutes passed for the liberty of the subject by Edward III., cases having been cited of the use of the writ in that reign; so that the laws which gave liberty of the person were accompanied by a remedy for regaining it when restrained. Mr. Selden, at a conference with the lords, explained the mode of procedure; that the writ of habeas corpus is the highest remedy for him that is imprisoned by the special command of the king, or the lords of the privy council, without showing the cause of commitment; and if any man be imprisoned, by that or any other author. ity, this writ is to be granted to him, and ought not to be denied. It is directed to the keeper of the prison, in whose custody the prisoner is, commanding him that after a certain day, he bring in the prisoner, with the canse of his detention, and sometimes with the cause of his caption; and he, with the return, filed to the writ, brings the prisoner to the bar at the time appointed ; and the court judges of the sufficiency or insufficiency of the return. If they find him bailable, he is committed to the marshal, the proper officer of the court, and then afterward delivered to bail.

But if it appear to the court that the prisoner ought not to be bailed, nor discharged from the prison whence he is brought, then he is remanded and sent back again to the prison from whence he came, there to continue, till by due course of law he be delivered.

The debate terminated in the following resolutions, unanimously agreed to in a committee of the whole house on the 3d of April :

1. That no freeman ought to be committed, or detained in prison, or otherwise restrained by command of the king, or the privy council, or any other; unless some cause of the commitment, detainer, or restraint be expressed, for which, by law, he ought to be committed, detained, or restrained. 2. That the writ of habeas corpus cannot be denied, but ought to be granted to every man that is committed or detained in prison, or other. wise restrained by command of the king, OR THE PRIVY COUNCIL, OR ANT OTHER; he praying the same.

3. That if a freeman be committed or detained in prison, or otherwise restrained by command of the king, privy council, or any other, no cause of such coinmitment being expressed, and the same be returned upon an habeas corpus, granted for the said party,– then that he ought to be delivered or bailed.

4. That the ancient and undoubted right of every freeman is, that he hath a full and absolute property in his goods and estate ; and that no tax, tallage, loan, benevolence, or other like charge, ought to be commanded or levied by the king or his ministers, without common assent of Parliament.

On the subjects of these resolutions, the Lords, at the request of the Commons, appointed a conference, at which the managers of the Commons were instructed to endeavor to induce the Lords to join in a petition to the king for a confirmation of these resolutions. But before the conference was concluded, the Commons, after receiving another message from the king to hasten the supply, came to a unanimous vote that five subsidies should be given to the king. This gave Charles great joy. Mr. Secretary Cook reported to the house the king's acceptance of the subsidies, and the great satisfaction which the vote had given him. But another message, a few days afterward, urging the completion of the vote by an act without delay-in which he cautioned the Commons not to bend themselves against the extension of his royal power, but to meddle only with pressures and abuses of power-gave the Commons offence, and they appointed a committee of ten members to consult on their grievances, and to give their substance under several heads, as instructions for their speaker to deliver them to the king in a speech. In these instructions, besides other matters, it was asserted—That it is the ancient right of Parliament to dispose of matters there debated in their own method ; that it is their ancient custom to consider grievances before matters of supply ;-that yet, nevertheless, in this Parliament, to express our affection to his majesty, contrary to our ordinary proceedings, we have proceeded to supply as far as we could

in committee; and, so far from delaying, that, postponing the common and pressing grievances of the nation, we have given precedency to the supply; joining with it only the fundamental and vital liberties of the kingdom that give subsistence to the subject.

The speaker presented at the same time a petition from the House of Commons concerning the billeting of soldiers, denouncing the practice as against the absolute property which every freeman, by the fundamental laws of the realm, had in his goods and estate. The petition pointed out in long detail the mischiefs and exactions arising from the king's subjects being compelled to receive and lodge soldiers in their houses, and to contribute toward the maintenance of them; the service of Almighty God was greatly hindered, the people in many places not daring to repair to church, lest in the mean time the soldiers should rifle their houses; the government of the country contemned, the officers of justice being resisted and endangered ; the rents of the gentry diminished, as the farmers, to secure themselves and families from the soldiers' insolence, retired themselves to places of more secure habitation ; husbandmen corrupted; tradesmen and artificers discouraged; markets unfrequented; and robberies, rapes, rapines, murders, and barbarous cruelties generally complained of-of which few have been so much as questioned, and fewer punished.

These grievances, under the general title of “The Liberty of the Subject," occupied the attention of the House of Commons, and, through their influence, the attention also of the House of Lords, almost exclusively of all other business, for two months, when the debates terminated in the celebrated Statute or PETITION OF Right."

The king tried to avert the further consideration of this matter by the Commons, by offering his royal word to observe the liberties of the subject as declared by the ancient statutes. He went on the 28th of April to the House of Lords; and sending for the Commons, the lord keeper, by order of the king, addressed them, and referred to the expense of time that had been occasioned by the debate in both houses-in which as they professed that they would not diminish or blemish the king's prerogative, so he presumed that they would all confess it a point of extraordinary grace and

« ForrigeFortsett »