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impression which his speech produced may be gathered from the report sent by Chamberlain to Winwood two or three days after.
"The 21st of this present he made another speech to both the houses, but so little to their satisfaction that I hear it bred generally much discomfort to see our monarchical power and royal prerogative strained so high, and made so transcendent every way, that if the practice should follow the positions, we are not like to leave our successors that freedom which we received from our forefathers, nor make account of anything we have longer than they list that govern. Many bold passages have been since in the Lower House, and amongst the rest a wish that this speech might never come in print.”1
Instead of appeasing one dispute, the King had in fact (without at all meaning it) raised another of larger dimensions-a dispute involving the entire relation between Sovereignty and Liberty; which it was so important (as Bacon could have told him) to maintain in silence, without coming to exact definitions. The effect was immediate; though to him, I believe, quite unexpected. The first business of the House the next morning was the appointment of a Committee "to devise upon some course to be taken to inform his Majesty how much the liberties of the subject and the privilege of the Parliament was impeached by this inhibition to debate his Prerogative."
In the notes of the debate which ended in the appointment of thisCommittee Bacon's name does not appear. But in Committee he tried hard, as he had invariably done on like occasions, to turn the discussion from the general question of the right to the particular question of the grievance. It had begun with strong assertions of the right of Parliament to debate freely of all things that concern the Commonwealth, including the Prerogative of the Crown, which was alleged to have been subject in all ages to enquiry both in Parliament and in the Courts of Justice. His course in such cases had always been, not to deny the right, but if possible to prevent the question. And such was his course now. Of his speech, which, having been made in Committee and not in the House, is not mentioned in the Journals, Mr. Gardiner's manuscript supplies us with the following note.
But Sir Francis Bacon took upon him to answer these reasons, and said that he would rather speak therein according to the freedom of his mind than according to the propriety of his 1 Winw. Mem. III. p. 174.
2 Parl. Deb. 1610, p. 36. Add. MSS. 4210, f. 27 b.
place. He began with a text, State super vias antiquas, sed videte quænam sit via recta, et ambulate in eá.
He said he had been a Parliament man ever since he was 171 years old; within which time he did observe that the Parliament had received divers inhibitions from the Queen to restrain them from debating the matter then in question; wherein he took this difference; that if the matter debated concerned the right or interest of any subject or the Commonwealth, if in that case an inhibition came, he for his part would not advise the House to desist, but to inform the King of the liberty of the House, and so to proceed. But if the matter in question were an essential thing which concerned the Prerogative and the power of the Crown, then the House did always desist from proceeding any further upon such inhibitions received. He gave instance of divers in his time.
In the last Queen's time some debate was moved in the House concerning the Queen's marriage, whereupon the Queen hearing thereof sent an inhibition, which was obeyed accordingly.
Not long after, divers times the matter of Succession was moved, and the Queen sent the like inhibition.
In ao 23 Eliz. a general fast for the whole Commons' House of Parliament was agreed upon, and it was appointed to be in the Temple Church, where solemn warning was given by Mr. Travers the Sunday before the day appointed. But the Queen sent an inhibition to the House, for that it pertained to her ecclesiastical power to appoint fasts, and not proper for the Parliament, which was only to meddle with meum et tuum.
So in Queen Mary's [time] the Parliament House entered into a debate what severer course were fittest for the Queen to take with the officers of her house (than was then used). But the Queen sent an inhibition unto them, for that it concerned her in her patrimony, which together with her servants she was able to govern without advice of Parliament. And therefore he persuaded the House to present these matters of Impositions as grievances to the Commonwealth (which the King had given us leave to do), but not to question his power and prerogative to impose.?
A mistake, I presume, for 27, or, "had been a Parliament man for 27 years." Bacon was in fact 24 when he first came into Parliament.
2 Parl. Deb. 1610, p. 38.
It does not appear that these precedents were met by any precedent on the other side-later than the reign of Edward III.—where a debate in Parliament concerning the limits of the prerogative had been permitted. But it was easy to find distinctions between each of the cases alleged and the case of the new Impositions, and to show that they were not exactly in point; and the result was a resolution to remonstrate. A petition of Right was accordingly drawn up, setting forth in temperate but firm language the right of Parliament to debate freely of all matters which concern the right and state of the subject, and the impossibility of examining the case of the new Impositions as it affected the subject without enquiring how it stood in law and ending with a petition that they might "according to the undoubted right and liberty of Parliament proceed in their intended course of a full examination of these new Impositions; that so they might cheerfully pass on to his Majesty's business, from which this stop had by diversion so long withheld them."1
This paper was very skilfully worded to avoid offence; and as I think the King had never meant to put any restraint upon the liberty of their proceeding, but fancied on the contrary that he was offering them a very large and unusual indulgence, he was the more disposed to receive it graciously. It was presented to him at Greenwich on the 24th of May at 11 in the morning. The messengers were received with unusual courtesy, and having been "extraordinarily entertained at dinner, were summoned into the withdrawing chamber at 3 to hear his answer: the substance of which was shortly that they had mistaken his meaning, both in his message and in his speech. In his message he had not meant to prohibit absolutely a discussion of the question, but only to suspend it, in order that he might understand their intentions: and in his speech when he explained what powers a King of England had by law, he never meant that he was going to use them for the abridgment of any of their liberties. He begged them to distinguish between his reasons and his conclusions," granted their petition as themselves had set it down," and desired that "mistaking might no more hinder their business."
With which answer the House being well satisfied, proceeded to their business without further delay.
The message and speech which had given rise to all these doubts and explanations were the more unlucky, because an accident had just happened which tended to bring the King and the Commons 1 C. J., 23 May, p. 431.
into harmonious action. The assassination of Henry IV, announced to the Lower House by Salisbury on the 8th of May, had rekindled their zeal against Papists, alarmed them for the safety of the King's person, and made them look up the laws against Recusants. Nothing reconciles dissensions between allies like the report of an enemy advancing; and if it had not been crossed by that unfortunate message, the news of the murder would very likely have been followed by a vote of supply,-inmediate, liberal, and unconditional. Salisbury tried to get that fruit out of it on the first announcement. "After he had represented unto them" (writes Beaulieu on the 9th) "the importance of that accident, and the loss which this state did suffer by it, . . . . his Lordship exhorted them to be watchful for the safety and good of their prince, and assist him with those means which were requisite for it; seeming to insinuate unto them that this accident would put the King in need of a greater assistance from them than was before required at their hands."1 And when this hint failed to produce its effect, he made another attempt to bring it about by a more elaborate proceeding. But it was his illluck throughout this session that every attempt he made to deliver the King from his embarrassments acted as a reminder to the Commons that as soon as he was delivered they would lose all their hold upon him. Their disposition was indeed for the time more favourable. The temper of the King's answer to their remonstrance, and the anxiety to take securities against the Jesuits which he shared with both the Houses, had sweetened their feelings; and the question of Supply and Support, which had been shut up by their message of the 3rd of May and remained in abeyance ever since, the Lords making no further motion in it, was on the 25th-immediately after the report of the King's answer-brought forward again. But in proposing to reopen it, they did not forget to stipulate that the question of Impositions, the investigation of which had been going on in the meantime with activity, should not be left behind, but proceed pari passu.2 Salisbury felt, I suppose, that, if that was to be the consequence, further delay would only lead to further difficulty; and immediately made a fresh attempt to get the negotiation resumed and pushed forward. The very next day after the passing of that resolution in the Lower House, messengers arrived from the Upper to desire a conference between the Committees "formerly employed in the matter of Tenures;" at which it was intimated that the King was prepared to lower his terms, and they were invited to renew the negotiation, not in a " dry meeting," such as the last was, but "in a free conference," where the committees on both sides 2 C. J., 25 May.
1 Winw. Mem. III. p. 160.
should come prepared to debate and argue.1 Which, it seems, was agreed to, and the Commons began forthwith to prepare themselves.
That the subject of discussion was to be the contract which had been under discussion before, and that more favourable terms were now to be offered, appears distinctly from the note in the Lords' Journals of what the Lord Treasurer was to say to the Committees.2 That in insisting so earnestly that the Conference should be "free" and the Committees authorised to debate questions, their motive was to save time and get the terms settled before the case of the Impositions could come on, I infer from the dates. And the business might no doubt have been despatched quicker in that way. But the Commons knew well enough which party could least afford to wait, and they were not to be hurried. If their Committees were to debate the terms of the contract, they must have their instructions beforehand; and instructions required time. That the same time served to collect the records concerning Impositions, was an accident no way inconvenient to them. But to Salisbury, if I am right in supposing that his object was to get the contract concluded before the other difficulty came on, it threatened to spoil his whole game. Unless he could hurry the preparations for the Conference, Support and Impositions would go together pari passu after all. Accordingly when nearly a fortnight had passed without bringing any news of their progress, another message was sent to remind them of the time of the year, and express a hope that "all protraction, in this so great and necessary a business, might be avoided." And when reply came "that they were preparing for the matters in question; that therein they had slacked no time; and so soon as they were prepared the Lords should hear further from them;" Salisbury seems to have felt that he should lose at that game; and thereupon suddenly changed his tactics; and tried to get at his main end-which was money to go on with-by a nearer way. The answer to the last message urging expedition was received on Friday the 8th of June. On Monday the 11th another was sent, desiring an immediate Conference (with the same Committees who had been employed before) "touching some things which were to be imparted to them by his Majesty's late commandment."4
To this they assented at once, without any remark; and the Conference was to take place the same afternoon. But the short interval was passed in anxious consultation upon a point of form, which, as illustrating the temper of the House and the wary distance at which they held their honour, would be worth notice, even if Bacon had not
1 L. J., p. 601.
2 L. J., 26 May.