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Verum ad institutum revertar. Ego, si quâ in re amicitia mea tibi aut tuis usui aut ornamento esse possit, tibi operam meam bonam atque navam polliceor. Itaque salutem tibi dicit
Amicus tuus, &c.?
1 Understanding from your letter to the Lord Cary that you approve my writings, I not only took it as a matter for congratulation with myself, but thought I ought to write and tell you how much pleasure it had given me. You are right in supposing that my great desire is to draw the sciences out of their hiding-places into the light. For indeed to write at leisure that which is to be read at leisure matters little; but to bring about the better ordering of man's life and business, with all its troubles and difficulties, by the help of sound and true contemplations, - this is the thing I am at. How great an enterprise in this kind I am attempting, and with what small helps, you will learn perhaps hereafter. In the mean. time you would do me a very great pleasure if you would in like manner make known to me what you are yourself revolving and endeavouring and working at. For I hold that conjunction of minds and studies has a greater part in friendships than civil ties and offices of occasion. Surely I think no man could ever more truly say of himself with the Psalm than I can, “My soul hath been a stranger in her pilgrimage." So I seem to have my conversation among the ancients more than among these with whom I live. And why should I not likewise converse rather with the absent than the presont, and make my friendships by choice and election, rather than suffer them, as the manner is, to be settled by accident? But to return to my purpose. If in any thing my friendship can be of use or grace to you or yours, assure yourself of my good and diligent service : and so biddeth you farewell
Your friend etc.
1. The great political problem which the times of James the First had to solve had been kept waiting hitherto by other business, but could not be kept waiting much longer. During the last two sessions the Union and the Gunpowder Plot had prevented the question how the Crown should be supplied with a revenue adequate to its wants from being pushed to a crisis ; the discussion of the Union having occupied the time of the Lower House, and the horror of the conspiracy having disposed them to be liberal. But even in 1606, when their excited loyalty showed itself in so large a grant—a grant without any precedent in a time of peace-the pertinacity with which they insisted that the petition of grievances should be presented to the King before the bill of the three subsidies went up to the Lords, gave sure sign of a struggle to come. The truth was that the business of government had outgrown the provision for carrying it on. The ordinary income of the Crown was no longer equal to the ordinary demands upon it. Even Elizabeth, with all her power of obtaining zealous service without paying for it in money, and with a practice of economy in all departments which every modern historian condemns (in respect to the particular department which he happens himself to favour) as parsimony,-parsimony in the reward of servants, in the provisioning of armies, in the keeping up of national defences, in the subsidising of allies,--even Elizabeth could not carry on the government in her later years without calling upon Parliament for annual contributions far beyond all former precedent, nor even then without borrowing money to the amount of a whole year's income and selling land to the value of as much more. The cause was simple enough. Large estates are costly to manage. The nation had increased greatly in wealth and population; the business and cost of government had increased along with it: but the fund
See Vol. III. p. 278.
out of which the cost was to be defrayed was comparatively stationary. As the Kings of England were never merchants, the patrimony of the Crown could not be expected to grow with the growth of a nation whose commercial activity was bringing honey to the hive from every land over every sea; while prices were rising from the influx of gold into Europe; and the value of the Parliamentary subsidy, in which (as being a direct tax upon real and personal property) a proportionate increase might have been looked for, was, for some reason which I do not clearly understand, gradually diminishing. Whatever may have been the cause, there is no doubt about this fact : and it is important enough to be worth exhibiting in detail. The following statement, authenticated by a note in the handwriting of the Earl of Salisbury, is preserved among the State Papers.
A comparison of Subsidies and Fifteenths drawn down from the first year of Q. Eliz. to the present 10th Feb. 1609.
from the viz. in
first. 1558 1° 1 Subsidy and 2 15ths 194326 (1562 5°
2760 1565 8°
1 15th 155794
15772 1570 13°
2 15 ths 175690
18636 1575 18°
25134 1580 23°
26150 1584 270
30780 1587 29°
31196 1589 31°
33781 1593 35°
7755 41536 1597 39°
53226 1601 43°
Note that all these decrease rise from the diminution of the Subsidies of the Laity, because the clergy subsidy and the fifteenths of the Laity are certain.
Thus we see that three subsidies in the beginning of James's reign did not bring so many pounds into the Exchequer as two did in the beginning of Elizabeth's, and yet three subsidies still passed for much the more liberal grant.
This state of things James inherited: and though he inherited along with it a portion of Elizabeth's last subsidies, they were not more than enough to repay the money which she had been forced to borrow. If I understand correctly the financial tables which Mr. Gardiner has collected with such diiigence, the ordinary expenditure of the government during the last five years of Elizabeth must have exceeded the ordinary receipts by more than half their amount. And though the expenditure was considerably reduced by the conclusion of peace with Spain and the suppression of the rebellion in Ireland, Mr. Gardiner himself admits that for a few years an annual deficiency of not less than 30,0001. (about one-tenth of the whole) was inevitable. Whether he is right in supposing that an Elizabethan economy steadily pursued during those years, together with judicious measures for improving the Crown patrimony, would bave brought the ordinary charges and the ordinary receipts to an equality, it is not necessary for my purposes to inquire. The contingency was not on the cards. Even if James had been ever so much disposed to take Elizabeth for his model in spending money, it may be fairly doubted whether it would have been possible for him to endure the unpopularity which it would bave entailed. Elizabeth could do many things which another in her place, even if he had possessed her qualities, could not have done. The whole Protestant population of England then living had been bred in devotion to her. Her age, ber renown, ber demeanour, her genius, combined to give her an authority which she could use without offence even in courses of which the people are commonly very intolerant. Had James entered upon his kingdom with a resolution to imitate her,-to be as strict in accounts, as exigent of service, as sparing in rewards,he would have incurred more dislike for bis parsimony than he ever did for the opposite, nor is it by any means certain that he would have been the richer. But it is vain to ask what might have been the consequences of such a thing: the thing itself could not have been. A man cannot alter bis nature, and it was not in James's nature to be an economist. He was a man who could not easily deny himself any pleasure, and unfortunately one of his chief pleasures was to give to those whom he liked whatever they wished to have. With this infirmity he had reigned for six years, when on the 19th of April 1608 his Lord Treasurer, the old Earl of Dorset, died, leaving the Exchequer in such a condition as might have been expected. The ordinary expenditure exceeded the ordinary income by 83,0001. The debt had risen to a million. And this at a time when the regular revenue of the Crown was expected to meet all its ordinary occasions without assistance from Parliament.
i S. P. Dom. James I., vol. lii. No. 58. This note is in Salisbury's hand.
Salisbury, who was immediately made Lord Treasurer, lost no time in setting his brains to deal with the difficulty: and if diligence, subtlety, activity and finesse bad been enough for the task, perhaps no man was more likely to succeed. But he had here a new case to
deal with; and it would appear from the manner in which he began that he did not at first uuderstand it. Had it been possible to cure the complaint without calling in the House of Commons, it would perhaps have been prudent to abstain from inviting their co-operation ; for it is not to be denied that a public admission of the true state of the case was not without its dangers. But if the co-operation of the House of Commons was or might become indispensable, it was of prime importance to avoid all proceedings likely to alarm them for their privileges. Que of these proceedings was the laying on of Impositions,—the imposition of duties, by authority of the Crown alone without the sanction of Parliament, upon goods exported and imported. The question whether the King had a right to do this had been disputed in the House of Commons, and though it is true that a case involving that question had been recently argued in the Court of Exchequer, and that the Judges had decided it in the King's favour, it is also true that in the last Parliament that very decision had been complained of and controverted, and it was plain that it had by no means set the question at rest. one of those stretches of Prerogative of which the Commons were most jealous; and with most reason : for to concede the claim in its full extent would have been to make over the commerce of the nation to be taxed at pleasure and without check. Yet the very first thing Salisbury did after he was made Lord Treasurer was to stretch this very power further than it had ever been stretched before :-to lay on at one clap, by the sole virtue of this disputed right, duties to the amount of 60,0001. a year. Whether it was done in inconsiderate haste, as the readiest shift to make the ordinary receipts equal to the ordinary expenditure, and stop the accumulation of debt; or whether he bad some further reach in it—as thinking perhaps to enhance the value of a prerogative which he meant to sell, or by increasing the burden to make the Commons more eager for the removal of it ;-or whether it was merely to magnify the value of his own services in the King's eyes, make him feel that he could not spare so diligent and so profitable a minister, and thereby establish himself in his new seat; I cannot say. But so it was. There is a curious paper in the British Museum, drawn up by Sir Julius Cæsar, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. It contains a journal record of Salisbury's services during the first two months of his treasurership; and seems to have been drawn up for the express purpose of magnifying to the King the merits of his new Lord Treasurer. The particular business of the Impositions is thus recorded.
“On Saturday 11 Junü, the Lord Treasurer, attended by the Chancellor and Barons of the Exchequer, went to the Custom House, and