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Oxford dissolved after two subsidies given him, and no justice received ? Was not his last in the same place, where they sat with as much freedom, as much quiet from tumults, as they could desire; a parliament, both in his account and their own, consisting of all his friends, that fled after him, and suffered for him, and yet by him nicknamed and cashiered for a “mongrel parliament, that vexed his queen with their base and mutinous motions," as his cabinet-letter tells us? Whereby the world may see plainly, that no shifting of place, no sifting of members to his own mind, no number, no paucity, no freedom from tumults, could ever bring his arbitrary wilfulness, and tyrannical designs, to brook the least shape or similitude, the least counterfeit of a parliament. Finally, instead of praying for his people as a good king should do, he prays to be delivered from them, as “ from wild beasts, inundations, and raging seas, that had overborne all loyalty, modesty, laws, justice, and religion.” God save the people from such intercessors !
settling this, &c. The bill for a triennial parliament was but the third part of one good step toward that which in times past was our annual right. The other bill for settling this parliament was new indeed, but at that time very necessary ; and, in the king's own words, no more than what the world “ was fully confirmed he might in justice, reason, honour, and conscience grant them;" for to that end he affirms to have done it.
But whereas he attributes the passing of them to his own act of
grace and willingness, (as his manner is to make virtues of his necessities, and giving to himself all the praise, heaps ingratitude upon the parliament, a little memory will set the clean contrary before us; that for those beneficial acts we owe what we owe to the parliament, but to his granting them neither praise nor thanks. The first bill granted much less than two former statutes yet in force by Edward the Third ; that a parliament should be called every year, or oftener, if need were; nay, from a far ancienter law-book, called the “ Mirror,” it is affirmed in a late treatise called
Rights of the Kingdom ;" * that parliaments by our old laws ought twice a year to be at London. From twice in one year to once in three
may be soon cast up how great a loss we fell into of our ancient liberty by that act, which in the ignorant and slavish minds we then were, was thought a great purchase.
Wisest men perhaps were contented (for the present, at least) by this act to have recovered parliaments, which were then
upon the brink of danger to be for ever lost. And this is that which the king preaches here for a special token of his princely favour, to have abridged and overreached the people five parts in six what their due was, both by ancient statute and originally. And thus the taking from us all but a triennial remnant of that English freedom which our fathers left us double, in a fair annuity enrolled, is set out, and sold to us here for the gracious and over-liberal giving of a new enfranchisement. How little, may we think, did he ever give us, who in the bill of his pretended givings writes down imprimis that benefit or privilege once in three years given us, which by so giving he more than twice every year illegally took from us : such givers as give single to take away sixfold, be to our enemies ! for certainly this commonwealth, if the statutes of our ancestors be worth aught, would have found it hard and hazardous to thrive under the damage of such a guileful liberality.
The other act was so necessary, that nothing in the power of man more seemed to be the stay and support of all things from that steep ruin to which he had nigh brought them, than that act obtained. He had by his ill-stewardship, and, to say no worse, the needless raising of two armies, intended for a civil war, beggared both himself and the public; and besides had left us upon the score of his needy enemies for what it cost them in their own defence against him. To disengage him and the kingdom great sums were to be borrowed, which would never have been lent, nor could ever be repaid, had the king chanced to dissolve this parliament as heretofore. The errors also of his government had brought the kingdom to such extremes, as were incapable of all re
* Written by Sir Ralph Sadleir, a small thin quarto, full of learning, bat ill arranged.- ED.
covery without the absolute continuance of a parliament. It had been else in vain to go about the settling of so great distempers, if he, who first caused the malady, might, when he pleased, reject the remedy. Notwithstanding all which, that he granted both these acts unwillingly, and as a mere passive instrument, was then visible even to most of those men who now will see nothing.
At passing of the former act he himself concealed not his unwillingness; and testifying a general dislike of their actions, which they then proceeded in with great approbation of the whole kingdom, he told them with a masterly brow, that “ by this act
he had obliged them above what they had deserved,” and gave a piece of justice to the commonwealth six times short of his predecessors, as if he had been giving some boon or begged office to a sort of his desertless
grooms. That he passed the latter act against his will, no man in reason can hold it questionable. For if the February before he made so dainty, and were so loath to bestow a parliament once in three years upon the nation, because this had so opposed his courses, was it likely that the May following he should bestow willingly on this parliament an indissoluble sitting, when they had offended him much more by cutting short and impeaching of high-treason his chief favourites? It was his fear then, not his favour, which drew from him that act, lest the parliament, incensed by his conspiracies against them, about the same time discovered, should with the people have resented too heinously those his doings, if to the suspicion of their danger from him he had also added the denial of this only means to secure themselves.
From these acts therefore in which he glories, and wherewith so oft he upbraids the parliament, he cannot justly expect to reap aught but dishonour and dispraise; as being both unwillingly granted, and one granting much less than was before allowed by statute, the other being a testimony of his violent and lawless custom, not only to break privileges, but whole parliaments; from which enormity they were constrained to bind him first of all his predecessors; never any before him having given like causes of distrust and jealousy to his people. As for this parliament, how far he was from being advised by them as he ought, let his own words
He taxes them with“ undoing what they found well done:'' and yet knows they undid nothing in the church, but lord bishops, liturgies, ceremonies, high-commission, judged worthy by all true protestants to be thrown out of the church. They undid nothing in the state but irregular and grinding courts, the main grievances to be removed ; and if these were the things which in his opinion they found well done, we may again from hence be informed with what unwillingness he removed them; and that those gracious acts, whereof so frequently he makes inention, may be Englished more properly acts of fear and dissimulation against his mind and conscience.
The bill preventing dissolution of this parliament he calls an unparelleled act, out of the extreme confidence that his subjects would not make ill use of it.” But was it not a greater confidence of the people, to put into one man's hand so great a power, till he abused it, as to summon and dissolve parliaments? He would be thanked for trusting them, and ought to thank them rather for trusting him: the trust issuing first from them, not from him.
And that it was a mere trust, and not his prerogative, to call and dissolve parliaments at his pleasure; and that parliaments were not to be dissolved, till all petitions were heard, all grievances redressed, is not only the assertion of this parliament, but of our ancient law-books, which aver it to be an unwritten law of common right, so engraven in the hearts of our ancestors, and by them so constantly enjoyed and claimed, as that it needed not enrolling. And if the Scots in their declaration could charge the king with breach of their laws for breaking up that parliament without their consent, while matters of greatest moment were depending; it were unreasonable to imagine, that the wisdom of England should be so wanting to itself through all ages, as not to provide by some known law, written or unwritten, against the not calling, or the arbitrary dissolving, of parliaments; or that they who ordained their summoning twice a year, or as oft as need required, did not tacitly enact also, that as necessity of affairs called them, so the same necessity should keep them undissolved, till that were fully satisfied.
Were it not for that, parliaments, and all the fruit and benefit we receive by having them, would turn soon to mere abusion. It appears then, that if this bill of not dissolving were an unparalleled act, it was a known and common right, which our ancestors under other kings enjoyed as firmly as if it had been graven in marble; and that the infringement of this king first brought it into a written act: who now boasts that as a great favour done us, which his own less fidelity than was in former kings constrained us only of an old undoubted right to make a new written act. But what needed written acts, whenas anciently it was esteemed part of his crown oath, not to dissolve parliaments till all grievances were considered ? whereupon the old “ Modi of Parliament” calls it flat perjury, if he dissolve them before: as I find cited in a book mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, to which and other law tractates I refer the more lawyerly mooting of this point, which is neither my element, nor my proper work here; since the book which I have to answer, pretends reason, not authorities and quotations : and I hold reason to be the best arbitrator, and the law of law itself.
It is true, that “good subjects think it not just, that the king's condition should be worse by bettering theirs.” But then the king must not be at such a distance from the people in judging what is better and what worse; which might have been agreed, had he known (for his own words condemn him) “as well with moderation to use, as with earnestness to desire his own advantages." “A continual parliament, he thought, would keep the commonwealth in tune." Judge, commonwealth! what proofs he gave, that this boasted profession was ever in his thought.“ Some," saith he, "gave out, that I repented me of that settling act.” His own actions gave it out beyond all supposition; for doubtless it repented him to have established that by law, which he went about so soon after to abrogate by the sword.
He calls those acts, which he confesses “tended to their good, not more princely than friendly contributions." As if to do his duty were of courtesy, and the discharge of his trust a parcel of his liberality; so nigh lost in his esteem was the birthright of our liberties, that to give them back again upon demand, stood at the mercy of his contribution. doubts not but the affections of his people will compensate his sufferings for those acts of confidence:" and imputes his