Imatges de pàgina


be permanent. The very success of Elizabeth's efforts was against it. As a new generation grew up, the numbers of those who in the main accepted the Queen's $24. Growing Imecclesiastical arrangements increased. But at first the portance of tendency drew men over in the direction of Puritanism. ParAs long as the struggle with Spain lasted, as long as there was danger of an actual invasion of the country, of an assassination of the queen, of the establishment of Mary Stuart on the throne by foreign aid, so long the bent of all who opposed such things led them to approve of a form of worship and doctrine as different as possible from those of the Papal Church. In the later years of the reign, when Spain and the Pope grew less terrible, a certain reaction took place. The papal claims were as unpopular as ever, but there was less zeal for extreme Puritanism. The doctrine preached was strongly tinged with Calvinism, but there was but little opposition to the episcopal government, and most of those who disliked the existing order of things would have been content with some relaxation of the ceremonial rules of the Church, so that those who wished to vary from them by omitting the use of the surplice, of the cross in baptism, and of the ring in marriage, might be at liberty to do so. Bacon, expressing here the highest intellect of his day, advised the concession of these demands, and there can be little doubt that a compact national sentiment was behind him. The prevalent feeling was in favour of substantial unity in Church and State, with a certain liberty to individuals to follow their own courses. Such a change could not be without effect on the position of the Commons. The cause of their weakness in the divisions of the nation was at an end. They were strong in 1603 as the embodiment of a national desire which was not even in existence in 1558. Other causes too had come to give them increased importance. They were




no longer what they were at the accession of the Tudor
dynasty, comparatively poor, accustomed to be ill-treated
by the aristocracy, and unversed in public affairs. The
Tudor sovereigns had taken chosen members of the
middle class into their immediate confidence, and had
administered the local affairs of the country by them
and with them. Then had come the influx of wealth
by commerce and manufacture, and the spirit of adven-
ture by which that wealth was directed to our shores.
The Commons had grown independent in prosperity
by the hardihood with which they had struggled for
pre-eminence in social life. In 1485 they were but a
down-trodden portion of the English people looking out
for a strong ruler to defend their cause. In 1603 they
were almost identical with the nation itself, with aims
and ideas of their own, and with firmness and resolution
enough to strengthen them to carry out in practice the
thoughts which their hearts conceived.

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WHEN Elizabeth died it was inevitable that the House of Commons should take a larger part in the direction of affairs than it had done before. In what precise way§1. Nethe change would be effected depended partly on the Liberty. character of the new king, and partly on the fitness of the Commons to undertake the work which lay before them. That work consisted in the relaxation of those restrictions which had necessarily been imposed by Elizabeth upon the free development of religious practices. As long as such a change presented itself as a mere obstruction to the higher development of the Commonwealth, the force of the State had been brought to bear against the negation of its authority. But if such action on the part of the government was a necessáry evil, it was an evil none the less. The moment that men became willing to admit the supremacy of the State, it was beyond all things important both for themselves and for their fellow-citizens that they should be allowed, not merely to think as they pleased, but to write, to speak, and to pray as they pleased. Unless it conceded these rights, the State itself would be the first to suffer. What counsellors are to an arbitrary prince, a free press and a free pulpit are to a self-controlling community. Without them prince and people alike are apt to run in old grooves, and to think it needless to






§ 2. The

first Years of James I.

take account of new thoughts which from time to time arise. Where liberty is, not only are the individuals who compose the nation better, stronger, and more selfreliant, but the nation itself acquires strength from the very diversity of opinion which seems to undermine it. Liberty of speech and thought creates an organisation higher and nobler than that which it has destroyed.

It was not to be expected that the change either from the supremacy of the king to the supremacy of the Commons, or from the maintenance of church uniformity to the permission of diversified forms of worship, could be effected without a struggle. James I. brought with him from Scotland no practical knowledge of the English character or of the wants of the English people. He drew tighter than ever the limits of conformity, refused, after a short time of toleration, any concessions to the Roman Catholics, browbeat the Puritan ministers at the Hampton Court Conference, and put the finishing stroke to the establishment of the English Church system, as Elizabeth had planned it. Yet so completely had that system rooted itself in the affections of the bulk of the nation, that though there were many who would have wished to see the Puritans conciliated, the king was able to carry out his plans without serious difficulty. More dangerous, it seemed, was the extreme need in which the king stood of money, and the increasing demands which the Commons consequently made for concessions to their wishes before they would grant supplies. For a time indeed he succeeded in parrying their attacks by raising impositions upon exports and imports without their consent, a course which the Court of Exchequer pronounced to be within his rights, though the House of Commons, followed by the lawyers of later generations, took the opposite view. The divergency between the king and the mass of the country

gentlemen who mainly composed the House of Commons led to his surrounding himself with courtiers who had little or no influence with the nation. Though Somerset and Buckingham, whom he selected as his intimate friends, were both of them ignorant and ambitious young men, he made over to them the patronage of the kingdom, and allowed them to rise to princely fortunes without any corresponding service to the people. But the political quarrel was aggravated by religious disagreement. The Commons were indeed not prepared to grant toleration to any Puritan sects. They wished that there should still be one Church, and were content that its organisation should still be episcopal. But they desired that latitude should be given to those amongst the clergy who felt scruples about conformity, and that any minister might wear a surplice or a black gown, might use the sign of the cross in baptism or give the ring in marriage or not, at his discretion. The Church thus constituted would embrace all moderate Protestant views at that time in existence, and would answer very fairly to the actual feelings of the nation. But the more anxious these men were to conciliate the Puritans, the less ready were they to give fair play to the Roman Catholics. The foul treason of the Gunpowder Plot, planned as it had been by a mere handful of men, yet bore so strong a resemblance to the old assassination plots against Elizabeth, that Protestants could hardly fail to draw the inference that the toleration of the Roman Catholic religion was inconsistent with the safety of the State. Yet it was precisely against this feeling, so deeply rooted in his subjects, that James set himself. His position was the worse because he did not stand out on any broad ground of principle. He was not so imbued with the love of tolerance as to strive in season and out of season to advance the good cause. He



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