Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

ing, he got from them an answer in the king's favour."Whitelock, p. 24.

“ Great murmurs and a general sense of oppression ran throughout the kingdom, on account of this new tax, levied without act of parliament : in London one Mr. Chambers a merchant had peremptorily refused to pay it; for which he had been committed to prison by Sir E. Broomfield lord mayor, against whom he commenced a suit for tresspass and false imprisonment, which case, when it came to be heard before Sir R. Berkeley, one of the judges of the King's Bench, he would not suffer the point of the legality of ship-money to be argued by Chambers's counsel, but declared in open court that there was a RULE OF LAW, and a RULE OF GOVERNMENT; and that many things which might not be done by the RULE OF LAW, might be done by the RULE OF GOVERNMENT.”Echard, p. 459.-His lordship added, _" That no act of parliament could bind the king not to command away his subjects goods and money." ~ Neal, Vol. 11. p. 157. Yea all the judges (except Hutton and Croke, * partly by promises and partly by threats, were brought to avow the legality of the tax, and to declare, That his majesty may, by WRIT under the great seal, command all his subjects, at THEIR CHARGE, to provide and furnish such a number of ships, with

* Judge Croke, says Whitelock, of whom I speak knowingly, was resolved to deliver his opinion for the king, and had prepared his argument for that end; but upon his most serious thoughts, and being hearicned by his lady, a very pious woman, who told her husband she hoped he would do nothing against his conscience for fear of any danger or prejudice to him or his family ; and that she would be content to suffer want or any misery with him, rather than be an occasion far him to do or say any thing against his judgment and conscience :-- Upon these, and like encouragements, he altered his purpose, and gave his opinion against the king."-Whitelock. p. 24.

men, victuals and ammunition, and for such time as his majesty shall think fit, for the defence and safeguard of his kingdom in time of danger and peril; and BY LAW might COMPEL the doing thereof in case of refusal. And that in such CASE, the king is the SOLE JUDGE both of the dangers, and when and how the same are to be avoided."--Echard, p. 459.

A sentence, says Lord Clarendon, " which, brought upon the judges deserved reproach and infamy; and by which they justly fell into irreverence and scorn. But when men heard shipmoney demanded in a court of law, as a right; and found it, by sworn judges of the law, adjudged to be so, upon such grounds and reasons as every stander-by was able to swear was not law,--and were required to pay it by a logic which left no man any thing he might call his own, they no more looked upon it as the case of one man, but the case of the kingdom; and an imposition which they thought themselves bound in conscience to the public justice not to submit to.—Sir John Finch, also lord keeper of the great seal, upon a demurrer put into a bill before him, which had no other equity in it than an order of the lords of council, declared that whilst he was KEEPER no man should be so SAUCY as to dispute those orders; but that the wisdom of that board should be always ground enough for him to make a DECREE in chancery.Clarend. Vol. 1. p. 69, 70. --Ibid p. 74. Here then was a total end to the liberty of the subject; and the CONSTITUTION of our government was absolutely overthrown; when an order of council is to have the same authority as a law enacted by parliament : and one of the highest courts of judicature declares it will always regulate its determinations thereby,

The lord mayor, aldermen, and commonalty of London petitioned the king, for, at least, an abatement of the heavy number of ships exacted from them, but were by order of council smartly told, That petitions against such commands were not to be received ; and whereas you speak of PRECEDENTS, you shall know that the PRECEDENTS in former times were obedience, not direction; and that there were also PRECEDENTS of punishments of those that disobeyed his Majesty's commands."--Echard, p. 459. "The sheriff of Northamptonshire having sent to court a petition of the county against ship money, the council reprimanded him very sharply, commanding him to do his office on pain of exemplary punishment. The judges were exhorted in their circuits to use all their authority to promote it. So it was evident the king was resolved to compass his ends, let what would be the consequence, and that this imposition was grown by degrees a standing tax upon the people.”-Rapia, Vol. x. p. 398, 399. Even in the year 1640, when the war with Scotland was commenced, “ The king, instead of giving over this odious tax, continued to exact it with great rigour, though his affairs were then at a crisis which should have made him dread the issue. -The lord mayor and sheriffs of London were proceeded against in the star-chainber for not levying it with that severity upon the city which the court expected.”Ib. p. 438.

So extreme was the rigour of the court in this point, “ That when the writs for ship money were issued out, the proceedings against the officers, bailiffs, constables, &c. for not collecting the assessinent, were to bind them over to answer at the council board, and commitment if any refuse to give bond; and if sheriffs neglect to collect all such assessments in their year, they shall stand

charged with the arrears." --Coke Det. p. 108.And when the parliament of 1640 was convened, Lord Clarendon observes,—“The court proceeded in all respects in the same unpopular ways it had done; ship money was levied with the same severity; and the same rigour used in ecclesiastical courts, without the least compliance with the humour of any man.”—Clarend. Vol. 1. p. 131.

A. Lill was depending in the house of commons to grant his Majesty the duties of tonnage and poundage, but before it was passed, the custom house officers seized the goods of three eminent merchants, Mr. Rolls, Mr. Chambers, and Mr. Vassal for non-payment. Mr. Chambers (an alderman) was fined 20001. besides the loss of his goods, and suffered six years imprisonment.* Mr. Rolls's warehouses were locked up; and himself (a member of parliament) taken out of the house of commons and imprisoned. This occasioned some warm speeches against the custom house officers and farmers of the revenues; but the king took all upon himself; and sent the house word, that what the officers had done was by his special direction and command, and it was not so much their act, as his own. This was a new way of covering the unwarrantable proceedings of corrupt ministers, and was said to be the advice of the Bishops Laud and Neile; a contrivance that laid the foundation of his majesty's ruin.-Neal, Vol. II. p. 195.

* Whitelock says, that after twelve years imprisonment, and long waiting for satisfaction for his losses from the long parliament, he at last died in want.--Whitelock Mem. p. 13

CHAP. VI.

The King's flagrant Invasions of the Privilege

and Rights of PARLIAMENT, and violences committed on it.

THE freedom and rights of parliament have ecer been held sacred by the people of Britain. The two houses are as essential and unalterable a part of the legislature of these kingdoins as the sovereign himself: they share witb him in the so vereignty : all manifest and open invasion of their liberty has therefore been justly considered as subversive of the constitution : a wound to the people's rigiit in its tenderest and vital part. But in what manner did king Charles behave towards his parliaments? Why, finding them a check upon bis arbitrary measure, complaining of evil counsellors, and praying a redress of grievances, he at first hectors and threatens them, and afterwards proceeded to open outrage and force.

“ It was the teinper of the king and court to look upon the parliament, especially the commons, with extreme contempt."--Rapin, Vol. x. p. 211. “He taxed them in the beginning of his reign, and long before the open rupture) with undutifulness and sedition ; calls the leaders of them VIPERS and EVIL AFFECTED PERSONS, who must look for their punishment, stiles them MALEVOLENT PERSONS, who like EMPYRICKS and LEWD ARTISTS strove to make neiu work."--Ech. p. 444. Tells them, “ If they had any grievances to be redressed, of which his Majesty was not sensible, they must complain in a MANNERLY way, without the least reflection on his, or his blessed father's government.--Says, I must let you know, that I will not allow any of my servants to be questioned amongst you, much less

« PoprzedniaDalej »