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therefore, as far as we may with duty, and without importunity, we most humbly desire an acceleration of his Majesty's answer, according to his good times and royal pleasure.
This appeal (in which the Lords joined) procured a very gracious answer; which was delivered by the Earl of Northampton on the 12th of March, and reported to the House on the 14th; and was understood as giving them "liberty to treat concerning the discharge of Tenures and all dependencies thereof." To which work
they accordingly addressed themselves at once; and with so good a will that by the 26th of March they were ready with their proposition which was shortly this: that Knights' service generally should be turned into free and common socage; in return for which "they offer to the King an hundred thousand pounds yearly; wherein they do include all the esse and the posse which the King ever had of the matter afore desired to be compounded for."2
If the King had not been known to be in such urgent need of money, there might have been good policy in making difficulties and proceeding slowly. The Commons being really desirous to conclude an arrangement such as seemed to be proposed, an affectation of indifference on the other side might in that case have induced them to make haste lest they should lose their chance. But the difficulties of the King having been not only proclaimed but demonstrated by figures the intolerable and inextricable embarrassments of the Crown having been laid as the ground of the whole proceedingwhile the people could hold on well enough as they were-there could be no doubt that delay was more inconvenient to him than to them. It is true that historians speak of people "groaning" under exactions, as if all the population were miserable when a few are unjustly taxed; and I suppose there never was a time in any country when many respectable witnesses were not ready to show that all things were going to ruin. But that in the year 1610 the people of England were generally either in distress or in fear of distress, is certainly not true. Purveyors and informers and farmers of Crown revenues were harassing many particular persons and causing a great deal of general annoyance and irritation; but the burdens from which the people were crying to be relieved were by no means so intolerable as to drive them to purchase relief at an ex1 Parl. Debates, p. 27.
Salisbury's Report to the Lords, 29 March. L. J.
travagant price. The whole nation was growing richer: the Lower House was becoming every year more powerful, and was sure to win if it had patience to wait. Not so the King. To him delay was dangerous in more ways than one. Salisbury, when he first called upon the Commons for so large a grant of money, had promised on the King's part, by way of retribution, the redress of all just grievances. It followed of course that they immediately set about collecting their grievances and every day's delay not only added to the list and inflamed discontents, but brought them nearer to a question which lay inevitably in the way and threatened an irreconcilable quarrel. That a Committee of Grievances could get through such an inquiry in such circumstances without falling upon the question of Impositions, was not to be hoped. Salisbury's vaunted day's work had made that impossible for until it were determined whether so large and indefinite a power as that of setting duties upon imports. and exports at his own will belonged to the King or not, it was impossible to estimate the value of any grant they might agree upon. And yet to this inquiry, so manifestly unavoidable, no provision whatever seems to have been made for securing a peaceable issue. How Salisbury expected to give it the slip, it is difficult to guess. But it is clear that the game did not go as he had planned it, and he had to shift his ground more than once.
My own conjecture is that he had counted on carrying the vote of supply before the discussion of grievances could be brought to a crisis, and thereby getting money enough to go on with for a while; so that a Parliamentary difficulty might, if necessary, be got rid of by a dissolution. He was constitutionally sanguine and bold; and having seen on more occasions than one that the Commons were apt to be very forward and liberal in voting supplies when any accident tending to bring them into passionate sympathy with the Government had warmed their loyalty, he may perhaps have hoped that in their first glow of gratitude for the concessions which the King promised they would be eager to express it by a liberal contribution: which being once secured, the Crown would have been relieved from its immediate difficulty and able to conclude the rest of the negotiation with advantage, or to throw it overboard without fear of the immediate consequences. To suppose, indeed, that at the commencement of a negotiation which was avowedly in the nature of a bargain they would deliberately relieve the King from the very difficulty which was avowedly his motive for proposing it, was to give them credit either for greater dulness or for more reckless generosity than could well be expected from a body of that character. But cunning is apt to overreach itself, and Salisbury's genius was not
long-sighted. At any rate we shall find that they understood their advantage and did not mean to throw it away.
They had submitted their offer to the Lords on the 26th of March, a few days before the Easter recess, and were already busy again with their collection of grievances, when on the 19th of April they were invited to a conference to hear the answer. The Lords had considered the proposition, and had communicated it to the King; whose decision they reported in these words:
"He would upon no terms depart with any part of his sovereign Prerogative, whereof the tenure in capite of his person, which is all one as of his Crown, is no small branch: But, touching the dependents upon such Tenures, videlicet Wardships, Marriage, Primier Seizin, Relief, Respect of Homage, and the like, which be the only burthens of these Tenures (the honour and Tenures reserved) His Majesty is pleased when he shall have understood what recompense will be there for offered unto him, with convenient speed, to give further answer for contracting for the same.”1
To this the Commons assented at once, without any difficulty. They were content that the King should retain the honour: the recompense they were prepared to offer for relief from the burdens incident to the Tenures was the same which they had already offered for relief from the Tenures themselves,-100,000l. per annum. What did he say to this offer?
The question was asked at a conference on the 26th of April, and answered by Salisbury in a long speech, of which (though it was felt at the time to be so important that a sub-committee was specially appointed to "consider of the report and assign a reporter") the notes in the Commons' Journals are not complete enough to be intelligible, while (singularly enough) the Journals of the Lords contain no record of it at all. It so happens however, that an unusually full report of the speech of Sir Edwin Sandys (who was chosen by the sub-committee for their spokesman) is preserved among the Harleian MSS. 3 and from this we learn what the next move in the game was a move quite unlooked for at the time, and very difficult to explain even now.
It will be remembered that when the Commons were asked for their answer to the King's demand of 200,000l. annual support, they
1 Lords' Journals, p. 580.
2 "Moved, that where the Lords at the Conference answered something not expected by the Commons, these might consider of the report," etc. C. J. April 27.
3 Harl. MSS. 777. Printed by the Camden Society in Appendix to 'Parl. Debates in 1610.'
replied that they could give no answer until they knew “what those things were which His Majesty intended to give to his subjects by way of retribution," and in particular whether Wardship was among them implying of course that when they offered the money they offered it in consideration of the remission of those burdens, and particularly of Wardships. The same understanding was implied in Salisbury's first answer (21 February) when he enumerated ten points of prerogative which "his Majesty might haply be persuaded upon good consideration to yield unto his subjects," that is, for which they might deal by way of bargain, but distinctly reserved the question whether Wardships were to be included. It was implied again in the rejoinder to that reply (27 February), when the Commons intimated that they could say nothing as to the matter of "support" until that question were answered. It was implied throughout Bacon's speech to the Lords (8 March) moving them to join in petition for liberty to treat of a composition with the King for Wards and Tenures, with a view to "invest the Crown with a more ample, more certain, and more loving dowry than this of Tenures;" which could only mean to provide such a dowry in exchange for the revenue they now yielded. It was implied in the answer to that petition delivered by the Earl of Northampton on the 12th of March, which was accepted and immediately acted on as granting them the liberty they asked. It was implied in the terms of their first offer (26 March) and in the first answer to that offer (20 April), when the King, in refusing to part with the Tenures, signified his readiness to contract for the discharge of the burdens incident to them (Wardship being specially named as one) when he should have understood what recompense would be offered. But now on the 26th of April it appeared that there had been some misapprehension. For after reminding them that they had "offered for the tenures and wardships, with all other their incidents, 100,0007. by the year, not reserving that benefit which the Crown now maketh by them," Salisbury proceeded to "crave pardon that he was somewhat too curious not to mistake them: for he feared lest some want in himself in conveying those things to them which the King propounded had made them more obscure than they would have been if they had been rightly and exactly delivered." He feared (it seems) that when he told them that the King was ready to part with those ten points of prerogative by way of "retribution " for the 200,0001. per annum which he demanded, and when they were afterwards told that they might include Wardships with them, they had supposed him to mean that the King was ready to part with them in exchange for 200,000l. per annum;-that 200,000l. per annum was to be the
price of them. But it was not so. The sum originally demanded was not meant to form any part of the price of these prerogatives : it was to be merely a negative condition-a sine quâ non—of negotiation; the price of the concession, not of the prerogative itself, but of the liberty to offer money for it. Let them vote 600,0007. supply and assure to the King 200,000l. annual support, and the King would then be willing to part with Wardships and the like, upon payment of a further sum equal to what he would lose by giving them up.
Whether the King had changed his mind, or whether Salisbury had persuaded him to keep it to himself till now, but could persuade him no longer, or whether he had not been correctly informed of what had passed before-or however it came about-I cannot understand the words in any other sense than this. 'When demand of 200,000l. per annum and 600,000l. was made, there was no thought (saith the King) that he should part with the Wards. Nay (saith the King) and so say we, there was no thought of divers charges which since seemed necessary. . . . And if we thought then without Tenures that demand to be just, shall we now, casting in the Wards, think it enough? .... He saith not 100,000l. is too much or too little for the Wards; but the Wards is too much for anything that shall come short of the King's first demand. . . . The conclusion therefore was that unless we offered that which might give the King a complete satisfaction, not reddendo singula singulis, but sub tota materia, 200,000l. a year above whatsoever we defalked from him by our contract, the Wards will not be had. And if that may be made up, then take (quoth his Lordship) Wards, Purveyance, and those other incidents, with what else the Parliament shall think fit."2 Take them (that is to say); but take them at their estimated value.
If this offer was made at Salisbury's instigation, or with his approval, it is hard to believe that it was made with any other intention than to provoke a refusal and bring the negotiation to an end. During the last seven years of Elizabeth's reign, the amount of supply granted by Parliament had risen to nearly 140,000l. in the year. But that was in a time of war with Spain and rebellion in Ireland. It was granted by two several Parliaments, with special
1 "But the King commence se renger à la volunté des Estats; I mean of the Lower House still, for the Lords, or some of the chiefest of his Council, have bon gré mal gré luy carried him in a cloud, that he could not distinguish between judgment and affections, being clear now (for so the populace can say) that there was never a house so honest to this state as the Commons are." Mr. Calvert to Mr. Trumbull 10 June 1610. Winw. Mem. III. 182.
2 Parl. Debates, 1610, p. 150.