Puslapio vaizdai

of state, and contemptuously applied to them the vulgar proverb, "Ne futor ultra crepidam." He condefcended, however, to affure them, that though their privileges were derived from the grace and permiffion of the fovereign, yet, as long as they contained themfelves within the limits of their duty, he fhould maintain them inviolate. The Commons, thrown, as might be expected, into a flame at this treatment, immediately voted, that the liberties, franchises, privileges, and immunities of parliament, are the ancient and undoubted birthright and inheritance of the fubjects of England. The king, on receiving 'this information, fent for the journals of the Commons, and with his own hand tore out this refolution of the Houfe; and, not chufing to venture another meetting after this outrage, he immediately diffolved the parliament; after which feveral of the most popular members were committed to prifon, and a proclamation was iffued, abfolutely prohibiting all difcourfe concerning thefe extraordinary proceedings.

Two years after this, however, the Spanish alliance being now abandoned, the king, pressed by his neceffities, and influenced by Buckingham, who had a war with Spain in contemplation, once more iffued a fummons for a new parliament: in his speech at the opening of the feflion, he fo far defcended from his former height of loftinefs, and even from that dignified reserve which fhould always accompany the regal character, as to ftate to the Houfe his caufes of complaint against the Spanish court,


and to afk their advice refpecting the difpofal of his fon in marriage; that identical point which he had forbid the last parliament, in the most peremptory manner, to prefume to make the fubject of their deliberations: he also voluntarily offered, that the money voted for the purpose of carrying on the propofed war with Spain fhould be paid to a committee of parliament, and entrusted entirely to their direction and management; a most imprudent conceffion; and even contrary to the first principles of the English conftitution. He had now fufficiently fhewn his weakness and timidity; he had demonftrated himself to be "infirm of purpose;" and it required but little fagacity to fee the great augmentation of authority and influence which must accrue to parliament from fuch conduct and no man of common difcernment could imagine, that the Commons would be induced to relinquish the decifive advantage they had gained, by a recurrence tɔ that haughty and contemptuous mode of treatment, over which they had fo recently triumphed in this ftate of things the king died, and the fceptre devolved to his fon Charles; but the hiftory of this reign. is too copious and interesting for me to enter upon. Suffice it to fay, what the flightest knowledge of the memorable events of it will evince, that the arbitrary maxims and fpeculations of the father were by the fon, fatally for himself, reduced to practice, and visibly pervaded every department of the government. Mr. Hume himfelf is compelled


to acknowledge, that, in numerous inftances, the laws of the land were openly and notorioufly violated; liberty was totally fubverted, and an arbitrary and defpotic authority exercised over the kingdom." Upon what grounds, then, can this able and eloquent apologist undertake to vindicate or extenuate the enormity of fuch a conduct? Why, he pretends truly," that the grievances which "were fo much the subject of complaint, when "confidered in themselves without regard to the "conftitution, fcarcely deferve the name; nor "were they either burdenfome on the people's properties, or anywife fhocking to the natural humanity of mankind." Indeed! I know not what degree of barbarity and oppreffion might be neceffary to fhock the humanity of Mr. Hume: but I believe there are few perfons fo deftitute of humanity, as not to be fhocked at the recital of thofe facts, which he himself has given us in the chapter immediately preceding this very curious and profound obfervation. Nor can I easily comprehend how it fhould happen, that the illegal impofitions and extortions of Charles were not burdenfome on the people's properties;-but, waving these confiderations, I will beg leave to ask, how it is poffible to reconcile this affertion with the reprefentations which he has uniformly made of the abject and deplorable fituation of this kingdom, under the government of Elizabeth. It certainly cannot be doubted, but that Elizabeth acted conformably to the prevailing ideas of her own times; or, in


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

other words, fhe is not chargeable with a violation
of the forms of the constitution, as it then subsisted.
I think also it will be univerfally admitted, that
the actual grievances of her reign were not more
intolerable than those fuffered under Charles; but
it feems the grievances of Charles's reign fcarcely
deferve the name. Then I afk, Wherein confifts
the culpability of Elizabeth? or, What foundation
is there for thofe fevere animadverfions upon the
arbitrary, the imperious, the tyrannical disposition
and conduct of that princefs? or, In what refpect
are we of the prefent generation, in a more eligible
fituation, or in happier circumftances, than the
abject and flavish race that exifted two hundred
years ago
? These things appear to me rather pa-
radoxical; and I think it would require all the
ingenuity of Mr. Hume to reconcile them to each
other, and to frame out of them one general
confiftent hypothefis. The truth is, his eager de-
fire of apologizing for the misconduct of the
princes of the house of Stuart, has unfortunately
made him take fuch indefatigable pains to caft a
fhade over the character of Elizabeth, and to
brighten the dark traits of the fucceeding reigns,
that when he attempts to trace the connection of
events, and to account for the uninterrupted har-
mony and felicity fubfifting under the adminiftra-
tion of the one, and the universal odium and
perpetual difcord
difcord attached to that of the
others, he has precluded himself from difplaying,
in their proper colours, thofe caufes which had


the principal influence in producing those remark able effects which he cannot but admit, and for which, upon the ground he has thought proper to occupy, it is abfolutely impoffible to account. The erroneous reprefentation he has exhibited of this period of our history, I look upon as the fundamental fault of a work, every page of which presents us with new beauties. The fact is, that the grievances fuftained by the subjects under the reign of Elizabeth, as well as her fucceffors, were very far from being trifling or imaginary; but a most striking difference may be discovered in this refpect, that the feverities of the Queen's reign, juftly as they would now be reprobated, were at that time confidered as the effect of a ftrong and real political neceffity. Or at most, if the Queen was chargeable with fome abuses. of prerogative, fhe had the fenfe and prudence to avoid all pofitive violations of established privileges; and as the great body of the people were never alarmed with apprehenfions of defigns inimical to the public happinefs, the whifpers of individuals were loft amidst the loud acclamations attending her profperous and popular adminiftration. But with respect to Charles, the whole tenor of his conduct evinced, that the great fpring of all his actions, was an eager and intemperate defire to emancipate himself from every fpecies of control, and he ventured to purfue his dangerous projects even while labouring under an univerfal odium, and at a time when the weak and arbitrary conduct of his father

« AnkstesnisTęsti »