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in Dorsetshire;* and on May 4, 1605, created Eart. of Salisbury, installed Knight of the Garter, and elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.
For these honours and preferments, many historians conceive him to have been indebted to his timeserving disposition; and assert, that he encouraged James to extend the royal prerogative beyond it's constitutional limits. He is charged, in particular, with having caused a cart-load of parliament precedents, favourable to the liberty of the subject, to be burnt; and with having encouraged the project of raising supplies by the creation of baronets, each person paying a thousand pounds for the honour.
It must be acknowledged, however, that he applied himself very assiduously to the duties of his office, and conducted the national concerns in a manner which made him equally esteemed at home, and respected by foreign courts. He never, indeed, heartily espoused the Spanish cause, though so highly favoured by his royal master. This was so notorious, that it was moved in council in that court, to complain to England of his malignant humour or envy against them. They, next, essayed to gain him by milder means. But when all the designs of the Popish faction were defeated by the detection of the gunpowder-plot (which yet great authorities have represented, as a political fabrication of his own) his
The first of that degree, who wore a coronet.
+ His elder brother, Thomas, was created Earl of Exeter in the afternoon of the same day.
Of the 205 baronets created by this Monarch, only 45 (including the original premier, Bacon) remain: 133 have become extinct, and 27 are merged in higher honours.
activity upon that occasion, and his zeal in bringing to punishment the individuals involved in it, instigated them to the adoption of darker measures.* In the affair, likewise, of the proposed union of Prince Charles (subsequently Charles I.) with the Infanta, he opposed the proposition in council, and the marriage-articles in the House of Peers, with such strength of reasoning, that the Spanish and English Papists were confirmed in their murtherous designs. But the scheme being overheard by one of his servants, he was put upon his guard; and soon afterward, by enforcing the act of parliament recently passed, which offered great rewards for the discovery of concealed Popish priests, he got rid of his secret enemies. Neither did this conduct lessen him in the esteem of his royal master. On the contrary, we find him in such favour in 1606, that Christian IV. King of Denmark, being at that time in England, the brother-monarchs made a visit of four days at the Earl's seat in Hertfordshire, where they were entertained with the utmost magnificence.
In 1608, upon the demise of the Earl of Dorset, he attained the summit of his wishes, the office of Lord High Treasurer. And, in the management of the public revenues, he found fresh opportunities of at once exerting his political abilities, and acquiring great popularity. His predecessor, from an apprehension of losing his appointment, had encouraged the King's profuseness to his Scottish
* They reported, that he received a pension of 40,000 crowns from the States General, as their special patron; branded him with the appellation of puritan,' a name peculiarly odious to King James; and at last conspired to shoot him, from the Savoy or some neighbouring station, as he was going by water to court. VOL. II.
minions, upon whom he lavished the national treasures. Against this scandalous misapplication of the public revenues, the new guardian of the public purse took the liberty of remonstrating; and once, when the King had given a warrant for money to Sir Robert Carr, his first favourite, he devised a stratagem to impress upon his Majesty the extent of his extravagance. Rightly judging that James, who had come from a country scanty of specie, was ignorant of the value of the intended present, he ordered it to be placed in silver upon tables in an apartment at Salisbury-House, through which the King must necessarily pass to dinner. On beholding the precious piles, his Majesty was thunder-struck, and inquired 'whose property it was;' to which Salisbury replied, "Your Majesty's, before you gave it away." Upon this, he swore that he had been abused, as he never meant to bestow upon any one such a prodigious donation:' and putting aside some handfuls, in value about three hundred pounds, protested that Carr should have no more.' But the Treasurer, unwilling to distress the favourite, or dreading the effects of his resentment, contented himself with keeping back half the sum granted in the warrant; and from this time, as long as Cecil lived, James was more sparing of his bounty. He caused the King's manors likewise to be surveyed, which were previously but imperfectly known; revived the custody of crown-lands; ordered commissions of assets; directed the royal woods to be viewed, numbered, marked, and valued; had an exact estimate printed of the copyholds held of the crown; compounded with copyholders of the inheritance, and the possessors of wastes and commons originally appertaining to the King; appointed
commissioners to collect the fines accruing from penal laws and manorial forfeits; improved the customs from 6,000l. to 35,000l. pér ann.; and finally, surrendered up his patent of Master of the Court of Wards to the King. After Salisbury's death, however, his prodigality to his Scottish courtiers, and with it the clamors of his English subjects, increased; and his second parliament deeming the exhausted state of the finances a national grievance, refused to grant him any farther supplies, unless he would promise to apply them exclusively to the public service.*
A frugal administration of the finances was not the only service rendered to his country by the Earl of Salisbury, while he was at the head of the treasury. He patronised every ingenious invention, and every useful discovery, for the benefit of trade and navigation: encouraged the fishing on our coasts by natives, strictly forbidding all foreigners to interfere; and extended his attention to Ireland, which derived signal advantages from his political and commercial regulations. ↑
At length, his incessant application to the various duties of his high station gradually brought on a decline, which reduced him to a very weak condition: he was next attacked by a tertian ague, a disorder which seems to have been extremely fatal in England at the beginning of the seventeenth century, In the spring of the year 1612, his physicians pronounced, that he had a complication of disorders, of which the most dangerous were the dropsy and the
Upon this, they were dissolved in 1614.
† Of these one was, the offer of rewards for the tilling of uncultivated lands.
scurvy.' For these they advised the Bath waters. Before he set out for that city, the King paid him several visits, and expressed his sense of his great merit, as well as his personal affection for him, by many tokens of royal favour. He even parted from him in tears, and protested to the lords in waiting, that he should lose in him the wisest counsellor and the best servant in Christendom.' At this time, James had no hopes of his recovery, and therefore he ordered that no man should disturb him, by speaking to him upon public business:' but on hearing that he was much better, in testimony of the satisfaction he received from this intelligence, he sent Lord Hay express to Bath to deliver to him a token of remembrance, as well as an assurance of the continuance of his royal favour.*
* The present was a fair diamond set, or rather hung square, in a gold ring without a foil; and it was accompanied by a declaration, That the favour and affection the king bore him was, and should be ever, as the form and matter of that ring, endless, pure, and most perfect.' The writers of this minister's Life have been very careful to preserve this anecdote; but they have not explained the true motive of sending the present, independent of the King's personal regard. The foible of the Earl of Salisbury, it must be recollected, was his love of power, which he carried to such excess, that "he could not bear a rival near the throne." In this disposition, though he was a ready discerner, and in general a great rewarder, of merit in others, it was only when it did not stand in competition with his own. His ungenerous conduct to Sir Walter Ralegh sprung from jealousy; and even in his last illness, anxious to retain his office as long as life remained, he was continually despatching expresses to court to give the king hopes of his recovery, and to escape the mortification of being superseded before his decease. To make him easy upon this head, James sent one of the Lords of the Bed-Chamber to him with the above present and