Imatges de pàgina
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CHAP.
IV.

62

PARLIAMENTARY ORGANISATION.

THE political work of the twelfth century had been to draw closely the bonds between the king and the $1. Con- strengthened local organisations. The political work of

trast be

tween the Twelfth and Thirteenth

the thirteenth century would lie in surrounding the king with a general representative organisation, which would Centuries. bring before him the needs and desires of the nation as a whole, in the same way that the county courts and the county juries brought before his judges the needs and desires of the country districts.

§ 2. King John.

CHAPTER IV.

The first impulse to the movement was given by the misconduct of John. The system established by Henry II. could only work beneficially in the hands of an able and well-disposed king, who, if he did not care for the people for their own sake, at least understood that a well-governed people is the purest foundation upon which a ruler can build up his authority. John cared nothing for such a source of strength. For him, government meant merely the art of extorting money for his own selfish objects. Every class of his subjects was oppressed by the worst of tyrannies, a tyranny fitful and uncertain, relieved by no glorious achievements abroad, and directed to no large and far-sighted policy at home. As the strength which his father had derived from the national support slipped out of his hands, he rested more and more on the mercenary troops

which he gathered on the Continent, to be paid with English money, and to extort yet more money in England for them and for himself.

Three quarrels, each of them ending disastrously for John, each of them leaving traces on the development of the English nation, occupied the whole of the reignthe quarrel with the king of France, the quarrel with the Pope, and the quarrel with the English baronage.

The result of the quarrel with the king of France was merely one more example of the weakness of extended territories without unity of sentiment and organisation. To one who judges from a glance at the map, nothing can appear more unequal than the relative strength of John and of Philip II. But the dominions which stretched from the English Channel to the Pyrenees had nothing in common but their allegiance to the same sovereign. The great division of temperament and language between the lands to the south and the north of the Loire, was far more marked than it is at the present day. The Aquitanian differed to a great extent in race and language, and quite as much in his habits and mode of life from the Norman or the Frenchman of the North; and within these large divisions smaller divisions remained uneffaced. The Angevin was not as the Norman, the Languedocian was not as the Poitevin. The cool head of Henry II. and the fierce activity of Richard I. might keep, not without a struggle, these various races together. John could not do it. He was neither feared nor respected. The provinces north of the Loire, Normandy, Maine, Anjou, and Touraine, fell easily into the hands of Philip. If the Aquitanian lands held firm to their allegiance, it was because they had no wish to be French, and because they knew that the distant rule of a king who lived in England would leave them far more to their own devices than the rule near

CHAP. IV.

$3. The

three Quar

rels of the Reign.

$4. The

Quarrel

with the King of

France.

CHAP.

IV.

$ 5. The Quarrel with the Pope.

at hand of a king who lived in Paris. The change, allimportant for the growth of the French monarchy, was not unimportant for the growth of the English nation. Practically it cut England loose from the Continent. No doubt the bond thus broken was not quite as strong as it had been a century before. The great Norman houses of the Conquest, with their vast landed estates on both sides of the Channel, were mainly things of the past. They had perished, or had been brought low in one or other of their many struggles to throw off the yoke of the Conqueror and his successors. Still there were some families remaining which held lands both in England and Normandy; and, at all events, as long as a king of England ruled at Rouen, the French tongue could never be entirely a foreign speech, or the native of a French-speaking land entirely a foreigner in London. The loss of Normandy by John was therefore a distinct step in the direction of the formation of an English nationality.

Even the result of the quarrel with the Pope worked incidentally in the same direction. In spite of the distractions caused by the strife between Anselm and William, or between Becket and Henry, the rulers of the Church had on the whole been found on the side of the Crown. Nominated directly or indirectly by the kings, they often held official positions in the government of the State. But it was not only in this class that the kings had found support. The clergy were interested at least as much as other men in the maintenance of order, and their wide popular sympathies brought them. in close connection with those classes which had most to fear from a repetition of the anarchy of the days of Stephen. Suddenly a storm burst from a clear sky. John nominated John de Gray, a favourite of his own, to the metropolitan sec of Canterbury. The Pope, Inno

cent III., nominated Stephen Langton, under the transparent pretext of the confirmation of an election made. in his presence. If John had only proceeded with decent moderation he might have rallied the bishops to his side as Henry had rallied them against Becket. But he acted, according to his nature, with insensate violence, seized the estates of the see for his nominee, and, when the Pope laid the kingdom under an interdict, gave up the clergy to the lawless violence of his subjects, and practised lawless violence on them himself. Innocent at last threatened to bring Philip II. of France against him, that he might strip him of England as he had before stripped him of Normandy. Deserted by his subjects, John humbled himself at the feet of the Pope's legate Pandulph, and received his crown back from him to hold from henceforth as the vassal of the Pope.

III.

At first sight it would seem as if no heavier blow § 6. The Papacy of could be struck at the rising nationality. Innocent, in- Innocent deed, believed that he had taken a long step towards the realisation of his great idea of the establishment of a fatherly control over the kings of the earth, in order that they might learn to do righteousness and exercise justice. The idea of Innocent was more straightforward and practical than the idea of Gregory VII. Innocent saw that it was not enough for the accomplishment of the great object of his desire to draw a strict line of separation between the spiritual and the temporal. A theorist might distinguish where the one ended and the other began. To a practical ruler it was impossible. No act could be done which was not in some way either moral or immoral, and if it was the business of the Pope to make men moral or immoral, he might as well come into direct connection with those by whom men were governed. It was simpler to declare that as all men. held their lands from kings, kings held their crowns

F

CHAP.
IV.

CHAP.
IV.

$ 7. The Quarrel with the Baronage.

§ 8. Magna Carta.

from the Pope. Innocent's theory would soon be tested by experience. But even for the moment, the clergy were rather bound together against John than bound together to the Pope. They had shared in the miserics caused by John's oppression, and they had learned to look for friends amongst those who had been equally maltreated with themselves. The barons of England were near and the Pope was a long way off. If John continued to oppress, clergy and barons might join to resist oppression without waiting till their complaints could travel to Rome to be discussed and debated in the Papal courts, especially as, in spite of the high ideas of the Pope, it was known that he was surrounded by greedy and unscrupulous officials who needed to be bribed at every step.

In this way the interference of the Pope, which seemed to transfer the mainspring of English politics to a distant country, only served to bind all classes of Englishmen more closely together than before. Happily the new archbishop was a thorough Englishman. In him the scattered elements of the opposition to John's tyranny found a common leader. The barons, who rose in arms to wrest from the king some security that they should not be in future pillaged and oppressed at random, gained a definiteness of object by entrusting to him the preparation of the document in which their claims were made. The Great Charter, founded on an earlier charter of Henry I., bears the impress of the mind, of the man whom Innocent III., not knowing what he did, had obtruded on the English Church and nation.

The Great Charter differed from similar concessions made by the sovereigns of the Continent to their nobles. It was demanded and received not merely by the class of Englishmen which was the most powerful,

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