Imatges de pàgina
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CHAP.
VII.

§3. Thel Spanish Alliance.

§ 4. Domestic Govern

ment.

imposed and remitted the legal penalties on the Roman Catholics by fits and starts, as his fancies or his interests demanded.

At last, in 1614, when it seemed hopeless, without grave concessions, to expect a grant of adequate supplies from the Commons, James took the most unpopular step of his life. He planned a marriage between his son, the future Charles I., and a Spanish Infanta. A Roman Catholic lady was to be the future Queen of England, to use all her influence for the protection of the members of her church, and for the gathering of fresh converts to its bosom. Other stipulations would probably have to be made before the marriage was concluded, stipulations which would bind James to the modification or suspension of the penal laws against the Roman Catholics, and would thus give a foreign sovereign, the son of that Philip of Spain who had launched the Armada against English independence, a treaty-right to complain if those laws were put in force. For the present, however, James hesitated to go so far as this, and the conclusion of the marriage treaty was in consequence deferred. Then came fresh complications on the Continent. The Thirty Years' War broke out in Germany, in which Catholics and Protestants were opposed to one another. James tried to mediate without sufficient knowledge of the facts, or resolution to support his wishes by action, and his inconsistencies and hesitations were made use of by the Spanish Government to carry out their purposes in Germany. The fact that James was engaged at the time in negotiating a marriage treaty with Spain, made men think that he supported Spanish interests on the Continent even more than he really did.

Whilst distrust of his foreign policy and of his attachment to Protestantism was thus growing, his domestic government was exposed to the gravest suspicions. The

influence of the favourite had swallowed up the just authority of the crown. Applicants for office found that to obtain their object they must cringe to Buckingham. Those who gained Buckingham's good will were careless about conforming to the law. Monopolies were established, and special powers of interfering with trade were granted to his favourites, not always without some wish to advance the true interests of commerce and manufacture as they were then understood, but with a secondary intention of making the fortunes of those who had the good luck to get the working of these schemes into their hands. When at last a parliament met in 1621, it met with a settled distrust of the whole system which James was pursuing at home and abroad. That parliament accomplished much. It swept away the monopolies. It revived the disused right of impeachment, prosecuting the great Lord Chancellor Bacon for corruption before the House of Lords. It taught courtiers and officials that it behoved them to be able to maintain their purity at the bar of public opinion as well as in the royal ear. It offered to support James if he would take part in the German war in defence of his son-in-law, the elector Palatine. But James's notions of carrying on war were peculiar. He thought that he could do much by mere. good advice, and he thought that if good advice were not enough, and he were driven to fight, it would be possible to remain friends with Spain, whilst fighting the Emperor, who was the closest ally of Spain. The Commons thought otherwise. With such differences of opinion, a subject of quarrel was easily found. James dissolved parliament. Without the support of the nation, and without either an army or a well-filled treasury, he strove in vain to dictate peace to Europe. As a last resource, his son Charles, accompanied by Buckingham, undertook a journey to Madrid, in the

CHAP.
VII.

Jurong

СНАР.
VII.

$5. Buckingham

and

Prince
Charles.

§ 6. War of Charles I.

vain hope that this act of courtesy would induce the
king of Spain, not merely to make over the Infanta
to him without exacting unreasonable conditions, but
also to place himself on the side of England, in opposition
to the House of Austria on the Continent. As might
have been expected, the Prince found that the policy of a
great state was not to be changed by acts of personal
courtesy, and he returned to England to stir up the
national feeling of antagonism against Spain.

In such an effort, Buckingham and Charles were
easily successful. With the help of the new parliament
which met in 1624, they found little difficulty in bearing
down the old king with his love of inactivity and peace.
They did not see that the monarchy was discredited as well
as the monarch, and that it could only regain its ancient
splendour by the display of ability and wisdom, in which
the heir to the throne was still more deficient than its
Occupant. Of energy, Buckingham-for he, and not
Charles, was the ruling spirit of the government—had
enough and to spare. But he had neither great abilities
nor sound discretion. He rushed into treaties for military
action which made the highest demands upon the purse
of the nation, whilst he offended its religious instincts by
the concessions which he made to the Roman Catholics
as a consequence of the marriage between Charles and
the sister of the king of France.

When James died in 1625, Buckingham became, if possible, more completely master of England than he had been before. He would take no counsel which was not in accordance with his own wishes. In the first two years of the reign of Charles I., a war with France was added to the war with Spain; whilst expedition after expedition was sent forth to the Low Countries, to Cadiz, and to Rhé, each one to a disaster more ignominious than the last. The House of Commons, stirred to action

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VII.

by the incapacity of the government, demanded under CHAP. Eliot's leadership that the honour of England should no longer be committed to hands so rash. Charles stood by his friend, struggled to carry on the war by questionable, if not by illegal means, by forced loans, by imprisonment of those who refused to pay them, and by all the machinery of despotic government. He succeeded in stripping himself of all the authority which Elizabeth had derived from her position as representative of the nation. When Buckingham was murdered in 1628, that authority had passed irrevocably into the hands of the House of Commons, which had just driven the king to renounce, by his assent to the Petition of Right, his claim to levy taxes without its consent, and to imprison without the consent of the judges.

$7. The House of Commons

Church.

Inspired with the feeling of its greatness, the House of Commons addressed itself to the settlement of those Church questions which Elizabeth had so carefully kept and the for her own decision. A representative assembly is not indeed well fitted to decide questions of theology or science. Composed of a large number of persons, the natural tendencies of such a body are towards the acceptance of opinions already in vogue, and the proscription of ideas which, whether true or not, are new and unheard of. It was therefore a happy circumstance that the Commons had not been allowed to settle the English Church in the reign of Elizabeth, and it is impossible to deny that in 1629 the danger was not entirely at an end. The Commons declared boldly against toleration. The Calvinistic doctrines which they themselves had learnt in their infancy were to be handed down unquestioned to their descendants. No man who taught the contrary was to be allowed to hold a benefice, or to open his mouth in the pulpit. Yet, mistaken as the Commons were, the evil which they encouraged was not so great as the evil

CHAP.
VII.

$ 8. The King without Parliament.

which they combated. Those persons who questioned the received doctrinal teaching were also advocates of ceremonial observances which had in most places fallen into disuse. They did not ask simply for liberty for themselves, as the Puritans had asked at Hampton Court. With their leader, William Laud, they declared their doctrines to be the only true doctrines, and their ceremonies to be the only true ceremonies of the Church of England. To this view Charles was ready practically to give his support, and they, in turn, were ready to advocate his assumption of almost uncontrolled authority. In Church and State the wishes of the nation were to be no longer consulted. The authorities in both domains of human action separated themselves entirely from that body of which they were but the active members. Officials were to be everything, the nation was to be nothing. A quarrel with the House of Commons, which spoke in the name of the nation, was the natural consequence, and in 1629 began a period of eleven years in which parliament was not allowed to meet.

The separation between the king and the representative House was fatal to the efficiency of the monarchy. The authority of the Crown withered as a plant withers which has been cut off from the soil from which it derives its nourishment. It ceased to exercise the functions of controlling by superior intelligence and experience, because it believed itself called upon to combat rather than to foster and to train the instincts of the nation. Charles's idea of government was like the idea of an engineer in possession of a steam-engine who should set himself the task of keeping the machinery in motion whilst he scrupulously excludes the admission of steam. His object was to manage Englishmen as he thought best, not to help. them to manage themselves better than they knew how to do without assistance. In the State, he provided a fleet

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