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the one case and a good bargain, or what they took for such, in the other, they would be in a more liberal humour and would feel the propriety of paying off his debts. And it may be that when he saw that hope in danger of disappointment, he resolved to make sure of one thing or the other,-either to be free of the Contract or to have it coupled with a grant of 500,0001.
It is impossible to say who was answerable for the shifting and inconstant proceeding of the Government throughout this transaction. It may be that the King shrank, when it came to the point, from a policy which he had been persuaded to sanction. It may be that Salisbury offered, or pretended to offer, more than he had authority to.do. It may be that the negotiation was set on foot with a view to some other end, and was meant to break when it had served its purpose. What is certain is that the proceeding on the part of the Government was both indirect and inconsistent from beginning to end; and that the final breach was distinctly their choice and act. The Commons on the other hand acted throughout openly, honestly, consistently and liberally ; and with no more circumspection than the case required. And though, if the negotiation had proceeded, it would probably have broken upon some demand of theirs which they could not in prudence bave foregone and the King could not in prudence have allowed, it is clear that, as it was, the responsibility for the breach did not at all lie with them. An unanimous resolution not to proceed with the contract upon these conditions was the inevitable result of the last communication: and after a day or two of deliberation the following answer was agreed upon.
“Nevertheless, having entered into due consideration of the whole business, and that with as great deliberation as your Majesty's desire touching a speedy answer could permit, we have resolved that we cannot proceed in the contract according to your Majesty's last declaration delivered by our Speaker : which our answer we hope shall in no wise offend your Majesty."?
That an answer to this effect was expected by the King may be inferred from the tone of his reply, which is thus given in Mr. Gardiner's manuscript.
“To this his Majesty sent an answer by the Speaker on Wednesday 14 Nov. that sith we could not proceed according to his last declaration, which was agreeable to his first intention, he did not see how we should go further in that business.”'ı
1 Parl. Deb. 1610, p. 131.
2 S. P. Dom. James I., lviii. 10. Docketed by Sir Julius Cæsar, “ Answer to the Ks message touching the Great Contract. Received 9 Nov. 1610."
So ended the great project, from which so much had been promised and hoped, leaving all parties in a worse humour than before. But so did not end the great political difficulty which it had been invented to overcome. That difficulty was as great as ever, and now more than ever intractable. The debt of the Crown had increased, the expenditure had not been reduced, the inducements which had been held out to the Commons in the hope of obtaining from them a contribution adequate to the emergency, having proved insufficient, had been withdrawn, and the problem of November was the same as the problem of February, with all its disliculties aggravated. The contract being abandoned as a failure, there was nothing left but an appeal to the House of Commons in the ordinary way, with an offer of popular benefits, and a representation of the need of supplies. But after all that had passed it was no easy inatter to make such an appeal other than a very flat affair. The need of supply had been matter of notoriety for the last nine months, and all the particulars had been disclosed and discussed. And the longest list of benefits that could be offered to the people, could not but seem poor by the side of those with the promise of which they had been so long tantalized, and by the sudden withdrawal of which they had been so recently surprised and disappointed. But no other course was left : and on the same day on which the King declared the contract at an end, the Commons by invitation met the Lords in conference, to hear some new proposition.
The new plan of operation appears to have been this. The Lords were to invite the Commons to join them in petitioning the King for certain measures of relief to the people; which being promised, it was hoped that they would see the expediency of relieving the King's wants. The Conference was opened by Salisbury in a speech which was reported to the House by Bacon, and of which Mr. Gardiner's manuscript gives us the following note.
Lord Treasurer's speech consisted of two parts: 1. part of form and 2. part of matter.
1. Part of form: to avoid a scruple, lest we should conceive it as a message from the King.
2. Matter divided into three parts.
| Parl. Deb. 1610, p. 131.
1. A delineation of the proceedings formerly.
3. A conclusion with certain motions. [1.] The King, like a skilful archer, hath set up in the vicw of the Parliament the mark whereat he aimed.
He hath caused his wants to be made known and the cause of his wants, more particularly than experience hath found fit, in respect that the composition of the Parliament was such as what is spoken there cannot possibly be kept secret.
The sacrifice that the King desired was such as Christ appointed to be offered, a pair of doves, sine gemitu, and not like the sacrifice in the law, with struggling and resistance, and therefore he made offer of retribution to his subjects.
But these are refused by us, not (as he was persuaded) for want of willingness in the King to perform what he had offered, or of affection in the subjects; but diffidence and distrusts and fears, and distractions in opinion, like Jonathan's arrows, some shot over, some under, and yet all with a good mind.
2. The King now 50,0001. worse than he was at the beginning of the Parliament.
3. Motions. The Lords had taken into consideration corpus cum causa, his wants and the cause thereof. They were all of opinion that it is not safe to leave him unsupplied.
They did appoint him to acquaint us with some things which they wished that both Houses would join in petition for them to his Majesty, for the ease and good of his subjects.
He said he would not have the King to think that when wants are voluntary, supplies must be of necessity; and therefore those difficulties which have been used herein may procure some good effect in his Majesty : which he did not doubt of; assuring himself that he would be very careful hereafter how he pressed his subjects. And yet if he did, he was far from the opinion of the Jesuits that “ arma nostre militiæ” are solum preces et lacryma.”]
For his part his hope and comfort was that he should never sit in that place to use so many tautologies upon the like occasion, except it were upon some great and apparent cause, wherein we should be as forward as he.
1 Alluding, I suppose, to a passage in the King's speech on the 21st of May, which had alarmed the Commons.
The things to be desired by both Houses.
King. 4. Respite of homage to be taken away. 5. Penal laws to be reformed. 6. All obsolete laws to be taken away. 7. Power to make laws in Wales to be repealed. 8. No imposition to be hereafter set but by Parliament, and
those that are to be taken as confirmed by Parliament.
Salisbury was followed by Northampton and the Lord Chancellor, who both offered reasons to persuade the Commons to grant supply: but the notes of the reports, made respectively by Sir Dudley Digges and Sir Henry Montagu, contain nothing of importance.
The measures of relief which it was proposed to petition for were (it will be seen) of considerable value; and had such a proposal been made, and made sincerely, at the opening of the previous session before the state of the Exchequer had been laid so bare, and before the reciprocal obligations of Kings and subjects had been put upon the basis of a money bargain, the plan might have been very successful. After such a course of promises, expectations, misunderstandings and disappointments as they had gone through since February, the effect was very different.
Before the question came on for discussion in the Lower House, the King himself tried once more the effect of his own eloquence; not however on this occasion formally addressing himself to the House of Commons, but selecting a few of the principal members and sending for them to speak with bim. Of the interview we have the following account from a contemporary letter-writer.
“ About fifteen days since, the day before the King went to Royston, his Majesty called thirty of the Parliament House before him at Whitehall, among whom was Sir H. Neville. Where his Majesty said the cause of sending for them was to ask of them some questions, whereunto he desired they would make a direct answer. The first was whether they thought he was in want? according as his Treasurer and Chancellor of Exchequer had informed them. Whereto when Sir Francis Bacon had begun to answer in a more extravagant style than his Majesty did delight to hear, he picked out Sir Henry Neville, commanding him to answer according to his conscience: thereupon Sir Henry Neville did directly
answer to the first, that he thought indeed his Majesty was in want, and that according to the relation of his Council. Then (said the King) tell me whether it belongeth to you that are my subjects to relieve me or not ? To this, quoth Sir Harry, I must answer with a distinction : where your Majesty's expense groweth by the Commonwealth we are bound to maintain it, otherwise not: and so continuing his speech, he gave a note that in this one Parliament they had already given four Subsidies and seven fif. teenths; which is more than ever was given by any Parliament, at any time, upon any occasion ; and yet withal that they had had no relief of
1 their grievances. Then was his Majesty instant to have him declare what their grievances were. To all their grievances (said Sir Harry) I am not privy, but of those that are come to my knowledge I will make recital ; and so began to say, that in matter of justice they could not have an indifferent proceeding (aiming perhaps at his Majesty's prerogative, nullum tempus occurret Regi); and then falling upon the Jurisdiction of the Marches of Wales, Sir Herbert Croft took the word out of his mouth; otherwise, it was thought, Sir Henry (being charged upon his conscience) would have delivered his judgment in all, in what respect soever it might be taken.'
I see no reason to doubt that the King's object in this conversation was really what he said it was,--to clear away misapprehensions on both sides, and come to a better understanding each of the other's views and purposes. Nor was the manner of proceeding injudicious, considered with reference to the immediate object; however unadvisable it may have been, considering the suspicion of illegitimate influence and the alarm for Privilege which it was sure to excite in the body of the House. The present practical result was a formal communication to the Speaker, requiring the House "to forbear for the present any further speech concerning the supply of him or his estate, until they should have heard something from him,-which should be within a few days.” Whereupon the House, which appears to have been interrupted by the message in the middle of a debate, was adjourned for a few days; and on its next meeting the following letteror a letter of which the following is given as the substance—was read.
Wednesday 21 November. A letter from His Majesty to the Speaker, sent from 'Royston, read in the House, to this purpose :
Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well, &c. First concerning impositions, his final answer is, that he will be con. 1 John More to Sir R. Winwood, 1 Dec. 1610. Winw. Mem. III. p. 235.
2 “To confer with them as private men, having no other end nor purpose in this conference but only to make them see how unwilling he would be to suffer anything to be mistaken that may have passed heretofore upon any occasion either out of Parliament or in Parliament from him or them." Address of the Speaker, 17 Nov. S. P. Vol. lvii. 21.