Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

nise the title, or even give audience to the envoy, of the new king of Bohemia, he turned with renewed activity to the prosecution of his beloved diplomacy.

Buckingham and the courtiers applauded the decision of the king, which seemed most agreeable to their interests ; but, in the nation at large, his indifference to the protestant interest and to the cause of his own children rendered him the object of censure and suspicion.

The further progress of the German contest led to important results, and especially to the summoning of a parliament for ever memorable in the political history of England: but before we proceed in the narrative, it will be desirable to add some further traits illustrative of the political views of the king and the internal state of the country.

CHAPTER CHAPTER XIX.

1617 To 1620.

James's speech against flocking to London.--His conduct to

the antiquarian society.-His hostility to the common law. -Abuses in the administration of justice.--Chancery. Star-chamber.-High-commission.-Torture.-Trials for

witchcraft. WHATEVER might be the defects of James's intellectual constitution, he was certainly by no means deficient in acuteness, where his observation was sharpened by any apprehended danger either to his person or his cherished prerogative. History and reflection appear to have instructed him, that it is principally by the free and rapid communication of mind with mind, in the large and varied assemblages of great cities, that the knowledge of civil rights, the sense of public grievances, and the zeal for political liberty are produced and nurtured. Accordingly, he had anxiously endeavoured to restrain, by proclamations and other means, that propensity of the nobility and gentry to flock to London, which had increased with the increasing gaiety and luxury of the capital. In his star-chamber speech he had vehemently declared against the growth of new buildings in the suburbs, and had assigned a variety of plausible reasons,—suppressing however the poli

[ocr errors][merged small]

tical ones, which he probably felt as the most cogent, --for the constant residence of the landed proprietors in those mansions where their ancestors had exercised hospitality from generation to generation. “ One of the greatest causes,” says his majesty, “ of all gentlemen's desire that have no calling or errand to dwell in London, is apparently the pride of the women: for if they be wives, then their husbands, and if they be maids, then their fathers, must bring them up to London; because the new fashion is to be had no where but in London: and here, if they be unmarried, they mar their marriages, and if they be married, they lose their reputations and rob their husbands' purses. It is the fashion of Italy..... that all the gentry dwell in the principal towns, and so the whole country is empty: even so now in England, all the country is gotten into London, so as with time England will be only London, and the whole country be left waste: for as we now do imitate the French in fashion of clothes, and laquies to follow every man, so have we got up the Italian fashion, in living miserably in our houses and dwelling all in the city: but let us, in God's name, leave these idle foreign toys, and keep the old fashion of England..... Therefore,” he concludes, “as every fish lives in his own place, some in the fresh, some in the salt, some in the mud, so let every one live in his own place, some at court, some in the city, some in the country; specially at festival times, as Christmas and Easter and the rest.”

With sentiments like these, the establishment of any society in the metropolis capable of furnishing noblemen and gentlemen with an additional motive for frequenting it, must have been unwelcome to the king, and his conduct towards the antiquarian society affords an additional illustration of the spirit of his policy in these affairs.

This learned association, founded by archbishop Parker, had flourished, first under his auspices and afterwards under those of his successor Grindal, during thirty years of the reign of Elizabeth. It had numbered among its members sir Robert Cotton, at whose house the meetings were long held, bishop Andrews, Camden, Carew the Cornish antiquary, Francis Thynne herald and chronicler, Stow, Spelman, Joseph Holland keeper of the records in the Tower, sir Philip Sidney, sir Thomas Lake, William lord Compton, chief-justice Ley afterwards earl of Marlborough, judges Dodderidge, Tate and Whitelock, serjeant Fleetwood, Hakewill solicitor to the queen, sir John Davies and Selden; with many other private gentlemen and scholars, respected in their time, but less known to postęrity.

From such an assemblage, it is manifest that neither popery nor puritanism was likely to derive support, and as little was any plot against the state to be apprehended from it : yet on the application of the society, in 1604, for a charter of incorporation, it had been authoritatively suppressed by king James, “alarmed for the arcana of his government, and, as

some

some think, for the established church a.” The society continued however to meet as a private club; and in 1617, when it was judged that fourteen years of tranquil rule might have calmed the panic of the royal breast, a fresh memorial was drawn up, and addressed, like all other petitions, to Buckingham. Of this application we only know that it was unsuccessful, but it is not difficult to suggest a cogent reason for its failure. It will be observed, that a very large proportion of the more active and eminent of these students of national antiquities were either judges or pleaders in the courts of common law, a body of men viewed by James with peculiar jealousy and dislike, as depositaries of those chartered rights which he habitually infringed, and champions of that national system of jurisprudence which he desired to abrogate; and nothing would appear to him more unsafe or inexpedient than to countenance the search for ancient documents, and the discussion of ancient laws and customs, by persons thus qualified and thus predisposed.

The king's harangue on taking his seat in the star-chamber, in which he was pleased to say that he would make good the old proverb

comb seldom, comb sore,” might almost be regarded as a manifesto against the law of England and those by whom it was faithfully and courageously administered. Addressing himself to the judges, he strictly charged them to remember to keep their own limits,

a Introduction to Archæologia.

" towards

« AnteriorContinuar »