« AnteriorContinuar »
be discovered in the fear that good men had of losing Parliaments altogether by percipitate protests. King James had boasted that he had broken the necks of three Parliaments. “I beseech you, gentlemen," said Sir D. Carleton, in 1626, “move not his Majesty with trenching upon his prerogatives, lest you bring him out of love with Parliaments. You have heard his Majesty's often messages to you to put you forward in a course that will be most convenient. In those messages he told you that if there were not correspondency between him and you, he should be enforced to use new counsels. Now, I pray you consider what these new counsels are and may be. I fear to declare those that I conceive. In all Christian kingdoms you know that Parliaments were in use antiently, by which their kingdoms were governed in a most flourishing manner, until the monarchs began to know their own strength; and, seeing the turbulent spirits of
THE CAUSE OF GRIEVANCES.
their Parliaments, at length they by little and little began to stand upon their prerogatives, and at last overthrew the Parliaments throughout Christendom except here only with us."
By 1640 the people's bitter experience of government without Parliament had revived the sense of the value of the ancient custom. Pym, discoursing for two hours on the grievances of the nation, wound up his speech with a declaration that the foundation of them all was the intermission of Parliaments. “By two statutes," said he, “neither repealed nor expired, Parliament ought to be held once in a year.” His view was eagerly supported by the House. One of the proposed subjects of a conference with the Peers was that which relates to all, and is a great cause of all our former grievances—the not holding of Parliaments every year according to the laws and statutes of this realm.” Parliament was dissolved, but the Peers, petitioning the King for another Parliament, called attention to the “great grief” of his subjects at the intermission of Parliaments. The citizens of London likewise petitioned the King. They complained of the seldom calling and the sudden dissolution of Parliaments. The Scotch insisted upon triennial Parliaments, and obtained an Act declaring that "once at least in every three years a full and free Parliament shall be holden, and oftener as his Majesty shall pleased to call them.”
Charles was forced by the public clamour to meet a Parliament-most memorable, perhaps, of all our Parliaments—in 1640. There was then no resisting the determination to discuss and redress the public grievances, and hand in hand with the bill for supply marched a measure for securing the meeting of Parliaments. At first, this Parliamentary Reform Bill seems to have been a measure for the yearly holding of Parliaments; but it came before the King as a bill for preventing inconvenience happening by the
THE UNUM NECESSARIUM.
long intermission of Parliaments. A speech of Lord Digby's on the bill is extant. "Unless," said he, "for the frequent convening of Parliaments there be some such course settled as may not be eluded, neither the people can be prosperous and secure, nor the King himself solidly happy. I take this to be the unum necessarium. Let us procure this, and all our other desires will effect themselves. ... The reflection backwards on the distractions of former times upon intermission of Parliaments, and the consideration forward of the mischiefs likely still to grow from the same cause, if not removed, doubtlessly gave first life and being to those two dormant statutes of Edward III. for the yearly holding of a Parliament; and shall not the fresh and bleeding experience in the present age of miseries from the same spring, not to be paralelled in any other, obtain a wakening, a resurrection for them? It is that opportunity of being ill that we must take away, if ever we mean to be happy, which can never be done but by the frequency of Parliaments.” One of the arguments Lord Digby used was that no state can be wisely confident of any public ministers continuing good longer than the rod is over him, and this he illustrated by reference to the corruption of Noy and Wentworth, the first of whom he hoped God had forgiven in the other world, while the latter “must not hope to be pardoned in this till he were despatched to the other.” The conclusion of his argument was, that until the nation should be certain of trien
nial Parliaments, at least there were cold hopes of security against a recurrence of the national grievance.
The Triennial Bill, as may be guessed from this speech of Digby's, was generally demanded. Those who afterwards were known as Cavaliers joined with the party presently to be developed under the name of Roundheads in pressing it on the King. Its main provision was that every