Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

third year a Parliament should be called. The writs, if not issued in proper form, might be legally ordered by the Peers; and if all the parties bound by the statute to issue the writs in default of the Lord Chancellor failed to do so, the people themselves might proceed to election without writs. In the preamble, the ancient right to frequent Parliaments is distinctly asserted, and it is actually enacted that the laws shall be observed : “Whereas, by the laws and statutes of this realm, a Parliament ought to be holden at least once every year for the redress of grievances; but the appointment of the time and place for the holding thereof hath always belonged, as it ought, to his Majesty and his royal progenitors: and whereas it is by experience found that the not holding of Parliaments accordingly hath produced sundry and great mischiefs and inconveniences to the King's Majesty, the Church, and Commonwealth : for the prevention of like mischiefs and incon

a

D

veniences in time to come, be it enacted—That the said laws and statutes shall be henceforth duly observed.” But how, consistently with the above recited admission of the prerogative, could the Parliament secure that the law would be observed in the future any more than in the past? The remainder of the statute seems to suggest that it had been resolved to give the King ample grace. It may have been argued that a king might in good faith resolve that there was no necessity to call a Parliament one year, or even the next year; or that even if his motives were doubted, patience might be exercised and forgiveness extended for two years to the monarch of the realm before his prerogative should be invaded on the ground of its not being exercised according to law. But if the month of September in the third year were fairly reached without a Parliament being convened, the nation must look to the preservation of its liberties. And so within two months a

[blocks in formation]

Parliament should be assembled by hook or crook. The statute, therefore, made elaborate provision for the issue of writs without the initiative of the Crown. Then, in case a Parliament so convened should be indignantly dissolved by the sovereign, it was made unlawful to prorogue or dissolve any Parliament within fifty days after the time appointed for their meeting. The King did not like this interference with his prerogative of calling or dissolving Parliaments, even although it was only to be operative when he himself failed to exercise that prerogative within two years of the time ancient law required. He professed to like frequent Parliaments, but, said he, "to give power to sheriffs, constables, and I know not whom, to do my office, that I cannot yield unto." He “ingeniously confessed that frequent Parliaments were the best means to preserve the right understandings between him and his people which he so earnestly desired." The King had

1

a

to pass the bill, however, and he did it with a declaration that “never bill passed of more favour to the subjects than this."

In the public joy with which this Act was hailed, and in the manifest concern of the Par- . liament lest by any trick of the King's counsellors an act even so carefully worded might be evaded, there is abundant evidence that for this nominal and partial return to the old lines of the constitution there had been a most urgent demand in the country. After the King had given his assent to the bill, the Peers sent down a message to the Commons to tell them they were full of joy, and suggesting that they should join in asking the King to give them an opportunity of expressing thanks. They contemplated ringing of bells and bonfires throughout the whole city. The Commons sent an eager message back. They had been “in agitation of the same business" when their lordships' messengers came; they received the

[ocr errors]

CELEBRATION OF VICTORY.

37

message with much joy, and were ready to join their lordships. The same afternoon (Feb. 15th, 1641) “most humble and hearty thanks in the name of both Houses and the

whole kingdom” were given to the King for an Act of which, they said, “as it is of singularcomfort and security for all your subjects for the present, so they are confident it will be of infinite honour and settlement for your Majesty's royal crown and dignity, as well as comfort to their posterity.” The citizens had their bonfires. The streets of London, says Nalson, the royalist chronicler of this reign, “were all in a blaze, and the bells proclaimed the joy, as well as the tongues of this party, rather of a triumph for victory than an acknowledgment for royal bounty.” The public anxiety to preserve the fruits of this victory was appealed to in the Parliament's public recapitulation of the messages that had passed between them and the King. This showed a fear that the King's coun

a

« AnteriorContinuar »