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nexions, by enabling one party to discover what the other thinks of him.
I draw this curious fact from a manuscript narrative in the handwriting of the learned William Wotton. When the puritanic party foolishly became jealous of the man who seemed to be working at root and branch for their purposes, they addressed a letter to Preston, remonstrating with him for his servile attachment to the minister; on which he confidently returned an answer, assuring them that he was as fully convinced of the vileness and profligacy of the Duke of Buckingham's character as any man could be, but that there was no way to come at him but by the lowest flattery, and that it was necessary for the glory of God that such instruments should be made use of as could be had; and for that reason, and that alone, he showed that respect to the reigning favourite, and not for any real honour that he had for him. This letter proved fatal ; some officious hand conveyed it to the duke! When Preston came, as usual, the duke took his opportunity of asking him what he had ever done to disoblige him, that he should describe him in such black characters to his own party ? Preston, in amazement, denied the fact, and poured forth professions of honour and gratitude. The duke showed him his own letter. Dr. Preston instantaneously felt a political apoplexy; the labours of some years were lost in a single morning. The baffled politician was turned out of Wallingford House, never more to see the enraged minister! And from that moment Buckingham wholly abandoned the puritans, and cultivated the friendship of Laud. This happened soon after James the First's death. Wotton adds, “ This story I had from one who was extremely well versed in the secret history of the time."*
SIR EDWARD COKE'S EXCEPTIONS AGAINST THE HIGH
A CURIOUS fact will show the revolutionary nature of human events, and the necessity of correcting our ancient statutes, which so frequently hold out punishments and penalties for objects which have long ceased to be criminal; as well as for
* Wotton delivered this memorandum to the literary antiquary, Thomas Baker; and Kennet transcribed it in his Manuscript Collections. Lansdowne MSS. No. 932–88. The life of Dr. Preston, in Chalmers's Biographical Dictionary, may be consulted with advantage.
persons against whom it would be barbarous to allow some unrepealed statute to operate.
When a political stratagem was practised by Charles the First to keep certain members out of the House of Commons, by pricking them down as sheriffs in their different counties, among them was the celebrated Sir Edward Coke, whom the government had made High Sheriff for Bucks. necessary, perhaps, to be a learned and practised lawyer to discover the means he took, in the height of his resentment, to elude the insult. This great lawyer, who himself, perhaps, had often administered the oath to the sheriffs, which had, century after century, been usual for them to take, to the surprise of all persons drew up Exceptions against the Sheriff's Oath, declaring that no one could take it. Coke sent his Exceptions to the attorney-general, who, by an immediate order in council, submitted them to “all the judges of England." Our legal luminary had condescended only to some ingenious cavilling in three of his exceptions; but the fourth was of a nature which could not be overcome. All the judges of England assented, and declared, that there was one part of this ancient oath which was perfectly irreligious, and must ever hereafter be left out! This article was, “ That you shall do all your pain and diligence to destroy and make to cease all manner of heresies, commonly called Lollaries, within your bailiwick, &c.”*
The Lollards were the most ancient of protestants, and had practised Luther's sentiments; it was, in fact, condemning the established religion of the country! An order was issued from Hampton Court, for the abrogation of this part of the oath; and at present all high sheriffs owe this obligation to the resentment of Sir Edward Coke, for having been pricked down as Sheriff of Bucks, to be kept out of parliament! The merit of having the oath changed, instanter, he was allowed ; but he was not excused taking it, after it was accommodated to the conscientious and lynx-eyed detection of our enraged lawyer.
* Rushworth's Historical Collections, vol. i. p. 199.
SECRET HISTORY OF CHARLES THE FIRST AND HIS FIRST
The reign of Charles the First, succeeded by the Commonwealth of England, forms a period unparalleled by any preceding one in the annals of mankind. It was for the English nation the great result of all former attempts to ascertain and to secure the just freedom of the subject. The prerogative of the sovereign and the rights of the people were often imagined to be mutual encroachments, and were long involved in contradiction, in an age of unsettled opinions and disputed principles. At length the conflicting parties of monarchy and democracy, in the weakness of their passions, discovered how much each required the other for its protector. This age offers the finest speculations in human nature; it opens a protracted scene of glory and of infamy; all that elevates, and all that humiliates our kind, wrestling together, and expiring in a career of glorious deeds, of revolting crimes, and even of ludicrous infirmities!
The French Revolution is the commentary of the English; and a commentary at times more important than the text which it elucidates. It has thrown a freshness over the antiquity of our own history ; and, on returning to it, we seem
possess the feelings, and to be agitated by the interests, of contemporaries. The circumstances and the persons which so many imagine had passed away, have been reproduced under our own eyes. In other histories we accept the knowledge of the characters and the incidents on the evidence of the historian; but here we may take them from our own conviction, since to extinct names and to past events we can apply the reality which we ourselves have witnessed.
Charles the First had scarcely ascended the throne ere he discovered that in his new parliament he was married to a sullen bride: the youthful monarch, with the impatience of a lover, warm with hope and glory, was ungraciously repulsed even in the first favours ! The prediction of his father remained, like the handwriting on the wall; but, seated on the throne, Hope was more congenial to youth than Prophecy.
As soon as Charles the First could assemble a parliament, he addressed them with an earnestness, in which the simplicity of words and thoughts strongly contrasted with the oratorical
harangues of the late monarch. It cannot be alleged against Charles the First, that he preceded the parliament in the war of words. He courted their affections; and even in this manner of reception, amidst the dignity of the regal office, studiously showed his exterior respect by the marked solemnity of their first meeting. As yet uncrowned, on the day on which he first addressed the Lords and Commons, he wore his crown, and vailed it at the opening, and on the close of his speech; a circumstance to which the parliament had not been accustomed. Another ceremony gave still greater solemnity to the meeting; the king would not enter into business till they had united in prayer. He commanded the doors to be closed, and a bishop to perform the office. The suddenness of this unexpected command disconcerted the catholic lords, of whom the less rigid knelt, and the moderate stood: there was one startled papist who did nothing but cross himself !*
The speech may be found in Rushworth; the friendly tone must be shown here.
I hope that you do remember that you were pleased to employ me to advise my father to break off the treaties (with Spain). I came into this business willingly and freely, like a young man, and consequently rashly ; but it was by your interest-your engagement. I pray you to remember, that this being my first action, and begun by your advice and entreaty, what a great dishonour it were to you and me that it should fail for that assistance you are able to give me !
This effusion excited no sympathy in the house. They voted not a seventh part of the expenditure necessary to proceed with a war, into which, as a popular measure, they themselves had forced the king.
At Oxford the king again reminded them that he was engaged in a war“ from their desires and advice.” He expresses his disappointment at their insufficient grant, “far short to set forth the navy now preparing.” The speech preserves the same simplicity.
Still no echo of kindness responded in the house. It was, however, asserted, in a vague and quibbling manner, that " though a former parliament did engage the king in a war, yet, (if things were managed by a contrary design, and the treasure misemployed) this parliament is not bound by another parliament:" and they added a cruel mockery, “that the king should help the cause of the Palatinate with his own
* From manuscript letters of the times. VOL. JII.
money!”—this foolish war, which James and Charles had so long borne their reproaches for having avoided as hopeless, but which the puritanic party, as well as others, had continually urged as necessary for the maintenance of the protestant cause in Europe.
Still no supplies ! but protestations of duty, and petitions about grievances, which it had been difficult to specify. In their “Declaration " they style his Majesty “Our dear and dread sovereign,” and themselves “his poor Commons :" but they concede no point--they offer no aid ! The king was not yet disposed to quarrel, though he had in vain pressed for dispatch of business, lest the season should be lost for the navy; again reminding them, that "it was the first request that he ever made unto them !" On the pretence of the plague at Oxford, Charles prorogued parliament, with a promise to reassemble in the winter.
There were a few whose hearts had still a pulse to vibrate with the distresses of a youthful monarch, perplexed by a war which they themselves had raised. But others, of a more republican complexion, rejected “ Necessity, as a dangerous counsellor, which would be always furnishing arguments for supplies. If the king was in danger and necessity, those ought to answer for it who have put both king and kingdom into this peril: and if the state of things would not admit a redress of grievances, there cannot be so much necessity for money."
The first parliament abandoned the king!
Charles now had no other means to despatch the army and fleet, in a bad season, but by borrowing money on privy seals : these were letters, where the loan exacted was as small as the style was humble. They specified, “ that this loan, without inconvenience to any, is only intended for the service of the public. Such private helps for public services which cannot be deferred,” the king premises, had been often resorted to; but this " being the first time that we have required anything in this kind, we require but that sum which few men would deny a friend.” As far as I can discover, the highest sum assessed from great personages was twenty pounds! The king was willing to suffer any mortification, even that of a charitable solicitation, rather than endure the obdurate insults of parliament! All donations were received, from ten pounds to five shillings: this was the mockery of an alms-basket ! Yet with contributions and savings so trivial, and exacted