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there in the assembly of the chief merchants of England, assembled from all the principal parts of the land, did make an excellent speech to prove that Impositions might lawfully be imposed by sovereign kings and princes on all merchandises issuing out or coming into their ports;—that no King or Prince, living or dead, doth or ever did deserve better the continuance of that liberty and privilege than our sovereign King James, who in his excellent virtues, natural, moral, and political, surmounteth all other kings living or dead;-that his present necessities, occasioned for the use of the public, especially for Ireland, contrary to his own will and the admirable sweetness of his own natural inclination, have occasioned him to use this lawful and just means of profit ;-which speech he had no sooner knit up with a particular repetition of Impositions now seeming burdensome and ordered by his Majesty for the ease of his subjects to be lightened, and likewise most things of necessary important use to the poor to be excepted from any imposition, than every man, after some little contradiction, consented to this general imposition now established ;-which will prove the most gainful to the King and his posterity of any one day's work done by any one Lord Treasurer since the time of King Edward III.” The whole journal of Salisbury's services during these two months is summed up in these words:
"He hath moreover to the King's great honour lessened the Impositions upon the commodities of currants, sugars, and tobacco. And hath to the King's great profit and the benefit of his posterity, increased his revenue by new Impositions general upon other merchandises to the value of 60,000l. a-year. And likewise hath raised a like benefit of 10,000l. a-year increase upon ale-houses licensed. . . . .
"So that, besides his other continual employments both in this high place and other his important and great places, he hath in the space of two months and twenty days directed and signed 2884 letters, and gotten to the King in money 37,4557. and in yearly revenues 71,1007.; which I dare confidently affirm was never done by any Lord Treasurer of England in two years. God's name be glorified for it, and honoured be our gracious Sovereign, who made the choice of so diligent and faithful a servant, and recommended be that servant who hath a conscience to discharge his duty to so gracious a Sovereign, whose long experienced judgment can rightly deem of men's deserts, and wisely distinguish between truth and falsehood." 1
All this was done; but all was not enough, nor nearly enough. The Crown still laboured under a debt of 400,000l. and a large annual deficiency. And Salisbury now saw, not only that the remedy must come from Parliament, but that since the precedents of Parliament showed no instance of a supply at all adequate to the emergency, some new occasion must be created that should lie out of the region of precedents.
1 Lands. MSS. 168 f. 306.
The scheme which he devised with this view was a large and imposing, and (had it been wisely digested and prudently carried) might have proved a very happy one. The revenue of the Crown was in those days drawn from many sources besides its patrimonial property; chiefly from certain tenures and privileges,—such as Wardships, Knight's service, Purveyance, and others ;-remnants of the feudal system, which the times were fast outgrowing :-privileges which had come to be burdensome to the people in a degree much greater, I fancy, than they were valuable to the Crown; and what was worse, (the system and occasions out of which they originally grew being forgotten) had come to be looked on and felt as grievances. Yet that these rights did belong to the Crown, and formed a regular and legitimate source of revenue, was not disputed. Here therefore were all the essential elements of a just and advantageous arrangement for both parties. A fixed revenue of equal amount derived from taxation would have been better for the King; and even a considerably larger revenue so supplied would have been much better for the people. There remained only the old difficulty incident to all the bargains that are made under the sun,-the difficulty of inducing the contracting parties to deal frankly and openly, with just and reasonable desires on both sides; instead of higgling and trying above all things to overreach one another, or (which is almost as bad) taking care above all things not to be overreached. It must be admitted however that this difficulty was in this particular case unusually great. The Commons,-jealous, ambitious, conscious of their advantage, many, and full of lawyers;―The King, -irritable, impatient, loose-tongued, conscious of his disadvantage and struggling to face it out, his heart full of anxiety about his estate, his mouth full of prerogative and divine right;-how were two such parties to come to an understanding on such a subject? Everything would of course depend upon the discreet opening and conducting of it by those ministers who stood between the two and had influence with both. The history of the negotiation is the history of the next session of Parliament.
In making a bargain, to be known to be in distress for money is a great disadvantage, and therefore it seems strange that so old a politician as Salisbury, in negotiating a money-bargain with the Commons on behalf of the King, should have begun with a public and official proclamation of the King's pecuniary embarrassments, and his utter inability to extricate himself without a very liberal supply
from the benevolence of his people. There could not be any necessity for proceeding so. Whatever might be the causes in which the proposition originated, the proposed arrangement both professed to be and was for the good of the state. It was to establish the necessary powers and revenues of the Crown upon a foundation less inconvenient for the people. In the days of the strong hand the Crown had been used to take the lion's share of everything. As arbitrary power was gradually brought under regulation and restricted by limitations and definitions, the customs which had thus grown up were left within the line and allowed as lawful. The share which the lion had claimed was secured to him, not on the original ground that he was strong enough to take what he pleased, but as being the share which properly belonged to the lion and was sanctioned by law. Hence it came that in inheriting the Crown King James had inherited a great many rights, royalties, immunities, and unfair advantages, which belonged to it and formed part of its regular income. These rights, royalties, etc., though they affected only a few persons, were troublesome and vexatious to those on whom they fell, and the money which they yielded could have been supplied much more conveniently to the people at large by a general tax, which lying equally on all would not have lain heavily on any. There could have been no difficulty in submitting to the House of Commons, as a measure for the good of the commonwealth without any reference to the necessities of the Crown, the expediency of relieving the people from these liabilities on condition of providing otherwise for the revenue they brought. The terms of the bargain would still have been open; and the less the Commons knew of the straits in which the King was placed, the better would have been the chance of settling them favourably.
Salisbury however, for some reason or other, took the opposite course and it is plain that he took it advisedly; for he had everything ready, he made the first move, and he began at once.
The Houses met on the 9th of February 1609-10; and the Commons had scarcely found time to ventilate the uppermost grievances, when they were invited by the Lords to a conference, "for consideration to be had for some necessary supplies to be yielded unto his Majesty."
The conference took place on Thursday the 15th, and the proceedings were reported to the House on the Saturday following. It seems they consisted entirely of a speech from Salisbury, which divided itself into three parts. The first, which related merely to the coming creation of the Prince of Wales, and seems to have contained nothing but stories out of the Chronicles, was reported by the
Attorney-General. The second, which was the main business, and a very delicate one to deal with-being nothing less than an exhibition of the balance-sheet, for the purpose of showing that the King could not support his position without help-was undertaken by Bacon.1 We have no report of what he said sufficiently full to show how he tried to make the best of it, but the substance of the statement is preserved in more than one record; and the agreement of these with the figures and disconnected fragments set down in the Journals entitles us to accept it as substantially correct.
REPORT OF PART OF THE SPEECH MADE BY THE EARL OF SALISBURY AT THE CONFERENCE OF THE TWO HOUSES, 18TH FEBRUARY 1609-10.
Now as it is an exceeding great comfort for us to see a King and a Prince live together, so it must needs be a great peril and danger if either of them should want means sufficient for their maintenance. For the branch cannot prosper and flourish except the root be fed.
The better to persuade us therefore to supply these wants, he set before us four things, viz:
1. A representation of the dangers and inconveniences if the King's wants should not be supplied.
2. An exact and particular declaration of the King's wants. 3. A preoccupation of certain silent objections.
4. Matters of inforcement to excite us to yield unto the King's desire.
I. In the number of the first he named breach of treaties and alliance with foreign Princes, which is expected, and may happen we know not how soon, either by means of want of justice to be done to His Majesty's subjects, or by ambition of foreigners. And therefore it is necessary that the King have means for four
1. To maintain his state.
2. To resist his enemies.
3. To help his friends.
4. To make diversions of war, which is the best policy for if the late Queen had not given aid to the Low Countries and the French King, what a neighbour might we have had ere this?
1 See Journals, p. 395, vol. i.
II. Secondly, the King's wants and estate he described in three several times :
1. At the time when he came to the Crown.
2. From that time till Michaelmas was twelvemonth, when his estate was at the lowest ebb.
3. A progression from that time till now.1
When Q. Elizabeth entered into the war of Ireland, she had in her coffers 700,000l.
At the King's coming in, the coffers were empty and the Crown deeply engaged.
From the overthrow at the Blackwater, where Bagnall the Marshall lost his life, to the Queen's death, it cost the Crown 1,600,0007.
The King's time hath two balances, one of account annual and ordinary, and the other in gross.
The ordinary expense more than the receipt is yearly 80,000l. besides extraordinary, which to him that liveth not like a wretch doth amount to of the ordinary.
The gross balance coming to be viewed, it is to be considered that he could not dissolve the army in Ireland presently upon his coming to the Crown, as well for that it had been no charitable consideration to put so many men out of means on a sudden, as also for that it was not safe to sheathe his sword too suddenly and commit the peace of that kingdom to so treacherous a people.
So that it is not strange that the gross balance of the charge2 of Ireland since the King's time doth amount to 600,000l.
The Balance of Receipts standeth thus.
The King found 300,000%. of Subsidies granted to the Queen; had 450,000l. granted by Parliament.
By Aid Money,3 22,000l. Whereof 4000l. from the nobility, 10007. out of London; and the rest elsewhere in the country.
Privy seals, being 100,000l. are all paid but 50007.
So the balance of receipt since his coming to the Crown riseth to 800,000l.
But this money was received with one hand and paid with the other.
1 So far I follow the MS. discovered by Mr. Gardiner and edited by him for the Camden Society. The rest of this division I take from Cotton MSS. Tit. C. X. fo. 125 which reads to me like a better report, though rather shorter.
2 Cleargee in MS.
3 This was for the creation of the Prince of Wales.