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we bar the importation of corn when we have no need of it, we shall not have it imported when we want it. Sir Edward Coke said, that he never heard of any bill that was ever preferred in parliament against the importation of corn; that he loved to follow ancient precedents; that he thought the bill spoke Dutch, but that it was certainly for the benefit of the Low Countrymen.
In the session of 1621 the commons began to show evident signs of that discontent which afterwards broke out into such serious controversies with the crown. Sir Richard Grosvenor said, “We have hitherto sung nothing but placebo, and danced to the king's heart; but it hath now pleased his majesty to change this tune, and to make us sing nothing but lachrymæ, and sing loath to depart.” † The subject of religion, and the sufferings of the protestant cause in Germany, roused all the sympathies of the house, and they passed a declaration in favour of supporting the palsgrave, amid waving of hat's and acclamations of triumph. Scarcely had the declaration been read, ere the king adjourned the parliament. “ Then Sir Edward Coke, one of the king's privy council, with tears in his eyes, standing up, said the prayer (which is in the common prayer-book) for the king and his issue; adding only to it, and defend them. from their cruel encmies.”
The activity displayed by Coke in procuring the condemnation of various monopolies irritated several of the persons who had benefited by those exactions to such a degree, that in conjunction, as it seems probable, with some other of Sir Edward's enemies, amongst whom his own wife and Bacon were found, they resolved to annoy him, by instituting proceedings against him in the starchamber. The nature of the charges against him was various, but they chiefly related to malpractices in his official stations; and they concluded with an accusation of “ ridiculous and barbarous behaviour and carriage in the place of a judge, comparing of himself, blasphemously, * Proceedings and Debates, vol. ii. p. 87.
+ Id. p. 123. Id. p. 174
to Samuel.” *
There is every reason to conclude that the offences with which he was charged had no existence but in the malicious imaginations of the accusers. The commons, indignant that one of their most active and respected members should be thus assailed, took the matter up with much warmth, and proceeded to animadvert on the parties who ventured to attack a member for that which had been done in the course of his parliamentary duty. + The king also, on the other hand, interested himself in “ Sir Edward Coke's foolish business," as he was pleased to term it; and had not more important matters supervened, it is probable that the business, foolish as his majesty might regard it, would have caused a breach between the crown and the parliament. But the “ apologetic petition, and the king's answer, occupied the attention of the house so deeply, that the matter appears to have been forgotten.
At length the misunderstanding between James and the commons attained such a height, that the king, with his own hand, erased from the Journals of the Commons the celebrated protestation or declaration of their liberties and privileges, which they had passed in anticipation of a dissolution; and, on the 6th January, 1621, published a proclamation, declaring the parliament dissolved, and animadverting with severity on those illtempered spirits who had compelled him thus to exercise his prerogative. But James was not contented with the bare expression of his displeasure : several leading members of the country party, amongst whom was. Sir Edward Coke, were committed to the Tower. Orders were issued to seize his papers at his chambers in the Temple, and to seal up the doors : and such was the animosity of the court, that it is said to have been debated in the council whether he could not be excluded from the benefit of the general pardon. I Nor was this the only persecution to which he was subjected. He
Proceedings and Debates, vol. ii. p. 250.
Parl Hist. vol v. p. 525.
was once more cited before the star-chamber, on a charge of concealing some examinations during the trial of the Earl of Somerset : but this proceeding appears to have been soon abandoned. He was also again dismissed from his place at the council-table ; and from this time he wholly forfeited the countenance of the court.
His appointment on a commission, in the year 1623, to enquire into the church establishment of Ireland, may at first seem to show that Coke had not fallen into entire disgrace; but there is little doubt that this was, in fact, intended as an honourable banishment. During the examinations into the conspiracy to accuse Coke in the star-chamber, Lepton, one of the parties, was represented to have said, “ that some of the greatest men in the kingdom were acquainted with this business; and that if the business of the star-chamber did not hit Sir Edward Coke home, that then he should be sent over a commissioner into Ireland.* Some years afterwards, when speaking of the practice of foreign employment, Coke said, “ No restraint, be it ever so little, but is imprisonment; and foreign employment is a kind of honourable banishment: I myself was designed to go to Ireland ; I was willing to go, and hoped, if I had gone, to have found some Mompessons there." +
At the commencement of the reign of Charles I. many of those who had watched with jealousy and distrust the events of the last reign, looked forward with better hopes to the measures of the new government. Sir Benjamin Rudyard, commending the good natural disposition of the new sovereign, his freedom from vice, his knowledge acquired by travel, and his “ being bred in parliaments," moved that the “ house should take such a course as might sweeten all things between the king and the people.' He was followed by Sir Edward Coke, who moved that there might be no committees for grievances or courts of justice; first, in respect of the
* Proceedings and Debates, &c. 1621. vol. ii. p. 254.
plague ; next; because this was the very beginning of the new king's reign, in which there can be no grievances as yet.
But this favourable disposition was speedily destroyed by the obvious bias of the court to those measures which, in the last reign, had been productive of so much confusion. The subject of grievances resumed by the commons; while the crown incessantly demanded supplies. In the debates on this subject, Coke took a conspicuous part, and was one of the first who ventured to point at Buckingham as one of the great grievances of the country. “ The last speaker on this side we shall mention,” say the compilers of the Parliamentary History, was old Sir Edward Coke; who began again with his leaks, and said " That two would drown any ship. That solum et malum consilium was a bottomless sieve. An officer should not be cupidus alienæ rei, parcus suæ; avarus reipublicæ ; super omnia expertus. Misera servitus est ubi lex incerta aut incognita. That in the 11th of Henry 3., Hubert de Burgh, chief justice, advised the king that Magna Charta was not to hold, because the king was under age when the act was made. He was Earl of Kent, but degraded for this some time after. In the 16th of Henry 3., Segrave, chief justice, was sentenced for giving sole counsel to the king against the commonwealth. That it was malum consilium to press more subsidies when they had given two, and to bring them thither only for 40,0001. Lastly, he offered to give 10001. out of his own estate, rather than grant any subsidy now.'”+ The advice of Sir Edward Coke prevailed; the subsidy was denied; and the king in anger dissolved the parliament.
A short time only elapsed before the king again resolved to summon a new parliament ; but measures were adopted to exclude from it those who had made themselves obnoxious by opposing the supplies to the crown. Several of the most distinguished members of opposition were accordingly appointed sheriffs, in order that they * Parl. Hist, vol. vi. p. 351.
+ Id. p. 401.
might be prevented from being returned as knights of the shire. Sir Edward Coke was nominated sheriff of Buckinghamshire. In order to escape the burden thus imposed upon him, Sir Edward made various exceptions to the sheriff's oath; all of which exceptions but one were overruled, and in that one particular the oath was reformed.* Notwithstanding his appointment to be sheriff of Bucks, Coke was returned as knight of the shire for Norfolk ; upon which the king sent a message to the commons, desiring them to issue a new writ for the latter county. The matter was referred to a committee of privileges and elections, who, without giving an opinion on the eligibility of Coke, desired that a search might be made for precedents. In the meantime, Sir Edward did not take his seat; though it appears that no new member was returned for Norfolk; as on the day before the dissolution of the parliament, it was resolved “That Sir Edward Coke, standing de facto returned a member of this house, shall have privilege against a suit in chancery, commenced against him by the Lady Clare.”+
In the third parliament of Charles I., which assembled in March 1627, 0. S., Sir Edward Coke, being no longer disabled by his shrievalty, appeared as one of the representatives for Buckinghamshire. The commons immediately recurred to the subject of grievances; amongst which, the levying of taxes, by the authority of the king alone, under the name of loans, occupied a conspicuous station. The following is the speech delivered by Coke on this occasion :
“ Dum tempus habemus bonum operemur. I am absolutely for giving supply to his majesty ; yet with some caution.
To tell you of foreign dangers and inbred evils, I will not do it.
“ The state is inclining to a consumption, yet not incurable ; I fear not foreign enemies; God send us peace at home. For this disease I will propound remedies: I will seek nothing out of my own head, but from my heart, and out of acts of parliament. I am not able to * Kennett, vol. iii. p. 13.
+ Parl, Hist, vol. vi. p. 425.