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yearly support the Crown was to give up 115,000l. a year in esse, and 85,0007. a year in posse, together with the authority, influence, and reputation which went along with the existing tenures, and at the same time all hope of occasional assistance from Parliament: — if a man so well informed on such matters as the Chancellor of the Exchequer could make it appear by figures that the King was in fact giving up of his own the full equivalent in money of that which he was bargaining to receive, and a good deal more in money's worth, and that his present necessities would remain unrelieved,-it could not have been difficult to distaste him with the proposed arrangement. And there were many about him who from principle or interest would naturally labour to deter him from concluding it. What the people were to gain by the remission of these dues of the Crown was what the middlemen through whom they were collected had to lose. The whole host of suitors, high and low, would be interested against the change. And if there were not also many most respectable and disinterested persons who saw in the abandonment of immemorial customs the ruin of the constitution of which they had been the bulwarks, the gentlemen of England must have undergone a greater change since James's time than nature seems ever to permit in the same race and climate. It is true that the House of Lords, so far as we can gather their proceedings from the Journals, supported Salisbury throughout with unanimity: "the little beagle had run a true and perfect scent which brought the rest of the great hounds to a perfect tune.”2 But the loyalty which forbade them publicly to obstruct a policy which the King had been persuaded publicly to adopt, could not prevent them from secretly disliking and deploring, and privately warning the King against it. It was reported about this time that Salisbury was falling out of favour, and (though rumours to that effect would naturally be suggested by the rise of Carr, and might have no other ground) I am inclined to believe from Bishop Goodman's remarks upon what he calls his "fall," that there was some truth in it.
"The true cause of his fall" (says the Bishop) was this: a great peer of the kingdom lying upon his death-bed sent the King word he
"I am persuaded that after this contract passed, the King may undoubtedly resolve to receive no more subsidies or fifteenths from his subjects in time of peace. For that is parcel of their groundwork, whereupon they are proposed to win their countries' consent to this contract; for neither shall the King need it, as they pretend, having that yearly portion from them, neither will their countries be able to furnish any more than that 200,000l. a year.” Dialogue on the Great Contract (Lansd. MSS. 151, f. 128 a) supposed to be written by Sir Jul. Caesar: printed in Parl. Deb. 1610, App. D.
2 Sir Roger Aston to Lord
S. P. Dom. James I., vol. 56, no. 42.
was desirous to speak with him. The King, as his manner was, desiring that no notice might be taken of his coming, sent the Earl of Dunbar to visit the sick man, excusing himself for not coming, and desiring him to impart to the Earl what he would speak unto him, and he would take it very kindly. Here the sick man did express great affection and duty to the King, and desired him not to lose any part of his prerogative, especially the Court of Wards and other great royalties which his predecessors had, for if he should part with these he should hardly be able to govern; that the subject was more obedient and did observe the King more for these than for any other laws or other respects whatsoever; that the subject was bound to relieve him and to supply his occasions without any such contractings; and therefore he did desire him, for the necessary support of his own government, not to put his lands unto fee-farms; and whereas at this time some did endeavour to engross and monopolise the King, and kept other able men out of his service, that the King, as God had blessed him with wisdom and judgment, would take such able men into his service as might from time to time be faithful to him and to his successors. When the Earl of Dunbar had delivered this message to the King, the King wished that, if it might stand with God's will [that] he were 10,000l. in debt to save his life; and ever after the Earl of Salisbury, who had been a great stirrer in that business, and was the man aimed at, began to decline."1
Who this dying peer may have been I do not know, nor how much credit may be due to Bishop Goodman's report. But I have little doubt that there were many people who took this view of the question, and that it was one which would find easy entrance into the King's mind. Now if the King feared that the Contract would deliver him bound into the hands of the people, and the people feared that it would deliver them bound into the hands of the King, and Salisbury foresaw that instead of establishing him in the King's favour it would discredit and defeat him, it is easy to understand why (in spite of the formal acceptance of it in substance by the two Houses) the chances were against its being carried through. If all parties had been eager to conclude it, the difficulties would have been great: for they had still to agree upon the manner of raising the money and upon the securities for performance of the contract on either side. If all were afraid of it, it was sure to break upon one or other of those difficulties.
The Houses met again on the 16th of October according to the
1 Court of K. James, vol. i. p. 40.
2 "The manner of the levy and the assurance are likewise put off till next meeting, without so much as any course taken to be more ready in them in this time of vacation: which is thought somewhat a preposterous order, to promise money and not to consider how or where to have it." Carleton to Edmunds, July 25, 1610.
order, and if their feeling with regard to the Contract had been the same as when they exchanged memorials in July, they had only to go on with it. It seems, however, as if neither party had been disposed to take the first step. What was said on the subject in either House we have no means of knowing, for the Journals of the Lords give no notes of the debates, the Journals of the Commons for that session have been lost, and the private Journal discovered by Mr. Gardiner contains no notice of what passed during the first fortnight. But more than a week had gone by without anything done by either, when the Lords invited the Commons to a Conference. What happened at that Conference (which took place on the 25th of October) we do not know. We know only that the next act of the Commons was to send for a true copy of the King's answer to their petition of Grievances; and that their entertainment of the question was so dubious or so dilatory that the King thought it necessary to expostulate with them, and require a "resolute and speedy answer, whether they would proceed with the Contract, yea or no."l
The note which remains of the proceedings that followed, though it is but a scrap, enables us to understand where the difficulty really lay, and why the Contract, having advanced so far, could advance no further. Both parties, when they came to look at it close, were afraid of it. The Commons felt that if they made the Crown independent of Parliament, they could have no security for what they were to get. The King felt that unless his debt were once fairly cleared off, the Commons would still have a hold upon him, by means of which they might bring him to a worse condition than he had been in before. Neither party durst risk it, unless it were guarded with conditions which the other durst not accept.
It was on Wednesday, the last of October, that the King had spoken to them and asked for their "resolute and speedy answer." The tone of his speech almost invited them to answer no. "He should be beholden unto them," (he said) "though they did deny to proceed; because then he might resolve upon some other course to be taken for the supply of his wants; for he said he was resolved to cut his coat according to his cloth, which he could not do till he knew what cloth he should have to make it of."2
Though no particulars have been preserved of the debate which followed, we may presume that it ended in the appointment of a Committee to prepare the answer; and that they brought up their report on Saturday; when a discussion took place of which we have the following note.
3 November 1610.
An answer to the King framed and offered by Sir Maurice Berkley, which being read was disliked as too ceremonious and complimentical, and not real and actual. The answer was to excuse our slowness by want of competent number. And that if our demands be granted, and no more shall be imposed upon the land, his Majesty shall perceive that we now are as constant to persevere with the contract as we were forward to undertake it.
The objection taken by the House to the proposed answer was the more significant, because Sir Maurice Berkley was not an adherent of the Court, but one of the leaders of the popular party. What their idea of a "real and actual" answer was, may be gathered from the notes of a speech by Sir Roger Owen-the only speech delivered that day of which any record remains.
Divers things to be provided for, otherwise he was unwilling the contract should proceed.
1. Our security to be provided for by a full answer to our grievances. No gap to be left open for the King to impose upon his subjects.
2. Means to levy it to be such as it may be least burdensome to the subject.
3. Provision to be made that this 200,000l. be not doubled nor trebled by enhancing of the coin by the King.
4. Provision that the explanation of doubts may be by Parliament; and that we may have Parliaments hereafter though the King's wants be fully supplied....
5. Provision that this 200,000l. per annum may not be alienated from the Crown.
As nothing is said of any final resolution I conclude that the debate was adjourned till Monday. But the tone of the discussion having sufficiently indicated what he had to expect from them, the King took occasion in the meantime to remind them of what they were to expect from him. And when they met on Monday the Speaker had a message to communicate which quite altered the case.
A message from His Majesty by the Speaker.
His Majesty, having by speech in person, upon just and apparent reasons drawn from his necessities, required our resolution concerning the contract, thinks fit to omit nothing that may further our proceeding without mistaking, etc. or loss of time.
He is pleased to represent unto us the clear mirror of his heart, and to set before us the essential parts of the contract, lest the taking of things by parts might induce any oblivion or distraction in the contemplation of the whole.
1. He declareth that it never was his intention, much less his agreement, to proceed finally with the contract, except he might have as well supply as support, to disengage himself from his debts. In reason his debts must be first paid.
His first demand [was] for the supply of his wants; and after the point of tenures and the distinction of support and supply came in by our motion. For his supply he expected to receive 500,000l. though it will be less than will pay his debts and set him clear.
The Subsidy and 15th last given not to be taken as part of that sum, by reason of his great charges since for the safety and honour of the State, and the increase of his wants.
He desireth to know our meanings clearly what we mean to do in the supply.
2. Upon what natures the support may be raised. His purpose is that it may be certain, firm, and stable, without the meaner sort, and without diminution of his present profit.
The recompense of the present officers to proceed from us, but not from his Majesty which is no great matter, considering it depends upon their lives, and that it is not warranted by the clause which gives us power to add or diminish, because it takes profit from his Majesty.
And therefore he expects 200,000l. de claro, &c.1
If they were in doubt before whether to proceed with the Contract or not, they could be in no doubt after the delivery of this message. Nor could the King himself, I think, have expected or intended it to have any other effect than that of hastening the resolution to give the Contract up. He knew that his original demand of 600,0007. supply and 200,000l. annual support (in addition to the estimated annual value in money of the proposed concessions) had been peremptorily declined, and that when it was insisted on the negotiation had been broken off distinctly upon that ground. He knew also that the Commons had only been tempted to take it up again by an offer from the Government of more favourable terms: and he knew that those terms contained no allusion whatever to any demand for Supply. If he believed that when he authorised Salisbury to say that he would take 200,000l. in exchange for the specified concessions, it was understood that his debts would be paid off at the same time, he must have been deceived by his ministers. It is impossible to suppose that so large an item could be understood to form part of the bargain and not mentioned in the memorial. It may be however that Salisbury had got leave to make that offer by persuading him that Supply would follow: that at present disputes about the Contract and excitement about Grievances interfered with Subsidies : but that if the Commons were gratified with a gracious answer in 1 Parl. Deb. 1610, pp. 126-8. Addl. MSS. 4210, fo. 90 b.