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suddenly broken in like a flood, had deposited, and still continued to deposit, the noble seeds of the spirit of liberty, union, and sober resistance.* So early as the time of Edward the tide was seen gradually to subside: the laws which protect the person and property of the individual began to make their appearance; that admirable constitution, the result of a threefold power, insensibly arose ;t and the eye might even then discover the verdant summits of that fortunate region that was destined to be the seat of philosophy and liberty, which are inseparable companions.
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.
THE representatives of the nation, and of the whole nation, were now admitted into parliament; the great point there
* This is perhaps the most erroneous assertion in the whole Essay. The feudal system caused no good to be deposited in our laws or institutions. It was to resisting its severity,-first, that of its feudal chief ; second, bythe burgesses and other freemen either joining the king, or with out him, for restraining the turbulence of the barons, as well as to the latter compelling the king to soften the rigour of the feudal laws,-that we chiefly owe the redemption of our liberties. The feudal system contained none of the elements of permanence. It would have finally decreased and perished from the mere rottenness of its irrational constitution. It was only suited to one state of society, which could not be permanent. It was undermined by the alienation of estates, commencing with the crusades. It was destroyed by the rise and wealth of commercial cities, by the invention of printing and of gunpowder, by the institution of standing armies, by the wars of Europe, and by the progress of civilization.- Ed.
+ “Now, in my own opinion,” says Philippe de Comines, in times not much posterior to those of Edward the First, and with the simplicity of the language of his times, “ among all the sovereignties I know in the world, that in which the public good is best attended to, and the least violence exercised on the people, is that of England.”-Mémoires de Comines, livre v. chap. xviii.
GROWTH OF THE COMMONS.
fore was gained, that was one day to procure them the great influence which they at present possess; and the subsequent reigns afford continual instances of its successive growth.
Under Edward the Second, the Commons began to annex petitions to the bills by which they granted subsidies :* this was the dawn of their legislative authority. - Under Edward the Third, they declared they would not in future acknowledge any law to which they had not expressly assented. Soon after this, they exerted a privilege, in which consists, at this time, one of the great balances of the constitution: they impeached, and procured to be condemned, some of the first ministers of state.f Under Henry the Fourth, they refused to grant subsidies before an answer had been given to their petitions. In a word, every event of any.consequence was attended with an increase of the power of the Commons;—increases, indeed, but slow and gradual, but which were peaceably and legally effected, and were the more fit to engage the attention of the people, and coalesce with the ancient principles of the constitution.
Under Henry the Fifth, the nation was entirely taken up with its wars against France ; and in the reign of Henry the Sixth began the fatal contests between the houses of York and Lancaster. The noise of arms alone was now to be heard : during the silence of the laws already in being, no thought was had of enacting new ones: and for thirty years together England presents a wide scene of slaughter and desolation. I
* This practice continued until the Peers refused to receive any Money Bills to which conditions were attached.- Ed.
+ It was under Edward III. and Richard II, that the statutes of provisors and præmunire were enacted, by which all persons receiving provisions or benefices from the Pope were outlawed. -Ed.
I With the exception of the State of England during he Wars of the Roses, there is no period in which the people suffered greater miseries than during the reigns of Edward III. and Henry V., although even recent historians consider it the most brilliant and glorious in the annals of England. The wars of Edward, and the victories of the Black Prince, instead of enriching exhausted the resources of the nation, and paralysed commerce. Notwithstanding the magnanimity and chivalry of both father and son, the result of the wars of the Black Prince beyond the Pyrenees was to place Peter the Cruel upon the throne of Spain, and to involve the unfortunate English prince in ruinous debt. The brilliant
At length, under Henry the Seventh, who by his intermarriage with the house of York united the pretensions of the two families, a general peace was re-established, and the prospect of happier days seemed to open on the nation. But the long and violent agitation under which it had laboured was to be followed by a long and painful recovery. Henry, mounting the throne with sword in hand, and in great measure as a conqueror, had promises to fulfil as well as injuries to avenge. In the meantime, the people, wearied out by the calamities they had undergone, and longing only for repose, abhorred even the idea of resistance; so that the remains of an almost exterminated nobility beheld themselves left defenceless, and abandoned to the mercy of the sovereign. :
The Commons, on the other hand, accustomed to act only a second part in public affairs, and finding themselves bereft of those who had hitherto been their leaders, were more than ever afraid to form, of themselves, an opposition. Placed immediately, as well as the lords, under the eye of the king, they beheld themselves exposed to the same dangers. Like them, therefore, they purchased their personal security at the expense of public liberty; and in reading the history of the first two kings of the house of Tudor, we imagine ourselves reading the relation given by Tacitus of Tiberius and the Roman senate.*
The time, therefore, seemed to be arrived, at which Engvictory of Cressy, and the rapid conquests of Henry V., terminated after his death by his brother the Duke of Bedford being defeated in a series of battles, in which a country-maid fought as a leader or general. This admirable heroine, on falling into the hands of the English, was barbarously burnt alive as a sorceress. The only fortunate circumstance connected with the attempts of the English to conquer France was that they were driven from every part of that country, with the exception of the single town of Calais ; and it would have been more completely fortunate if that place had also been abandoned instead of continuing a plague spot of expense and an inlet for interference in Continental affairs. It was in the reign of Henry IV. that the perfidious and profligate corrupting of the Commons was first successfully introduced, which continued to be practised ever since, with but temporary exceptions, until the passing of the Reform Bill.' It was, until within a late period, the unconstitutional policy of the Government to tax the people by the engine of a corrupt House of Commons. Ed. ** Quanto quis illustrior, tanto magis falsi ac festinantes.
THE TUDOR DYNASTY.
land must submit, in its turn, to the fate of the other nations of Europe. All those barriers which it had raised for the defence of its liberty seemed to have only been able to postpone the inevitable effects of power.*
But the remembrance of their ancient laws, of that great
* The accession of the Tudor dynasty was the commencement of a remarkable era in English history. It was also one of the most remarkable periods in the history of the world. It was during the early Tudor period that Columbus discovered America, and Vasco de Gama a new route on the ocean to India. Both discoveries opened a new and magnificent epoch in the navigation and commercial enterprise of the world. It was during the same period that the Romish hierarchy, which, under the ambitious and energetic Julius II., attained its highest and widest extension of haughtiness and power, was suddenly opposed by Martin Luther; and a formidable Reformation was commenced in Germany, which soon afterwards extended to England and Scotland, and to some parts of France. It was also during the Tudor dynasty that the Emperor Charles V. held absolute sovereign authority over Spain and the empire of the American Indies, and over the dominions which he inherited from his grandmother, the sole heiress of the last Duke of Burgundy, and of the grandfather of her husband the Emperor Maximilian of Austria. But all his power, genius, and wars, were ineffectual in his attempts to destroy the Protestant ascendancy: and it was during this period that the tyranny of Philippe II. drove the Dutch to that exasperation and resistance which enabled them afterwards to assert and maintain their independence. But the reign of the Tudors was in England a period of despotism. During the arbitrary reign of Henry VII., his vigilance, cunning, duplicity, and avarice, terrified and cajoled the Lords and Commons, and enabled him to rule over and tax the people by his own sole authority with the most profligate instruments. His Parliaments never represented the people, as he appointed sheriffs for the purpose of returning all who were desired by him to form a subservient House of Commons, merely for the purpose of granting subsidies. This sagacious and cold-hearted prince considered England as a conquered country; and his ministers consisted only of two bishops, and his instruments of extortion were the notorious Empson and Dudley. The Wars of the Roses had nearly annihilated the whole of the English nobility. Of fifty-three temporal barons summoned by Henry VI. in 1451, twenty-nine only, some of whom had been recently created, were of sufficient age to attend the parliament of Henry VII. in 1485. Henry at the same time perceived that the nation had been oppressed by domestic turbulence and bloodshed, which had divided the people into two factions in the interest of two great families who really had no regard for the public welfare, but for the re-establishment of their own arbitrary authority; and that peace was necessary to the revival of the industry, trade, and commerce of the kingdom.- Ed.
charter so often and so solemnly confirmed, was too deeply impressed on the minds of the English to be effaced by transitory evils. Like a deep and extensive ocean, which preserves an equability of temperature amidst all the vicissitudes of seasons, England still retained those principles of liberty which were so universally diffused through all orders of the people ; and they required only a proper opportunity to manifest themselves.
England, besides, still continued to possess the immense advantage of being one undivided state
Had it been, like France, divided into several distinct dominions, it would also have had several National Assemblies. These assemblies, being convened at different times and places, for this and other reasons, never could have acted in concert; and the power of withholding subsidies, a power so important when it is that of disabling the sovereign, and binding him down to inaction, would then have only been the destructive privilege of irritating a master who would have easily found means to obtain supplies from other quarters.
The different parliaments, or assemblies of these several states, having thenceforth no means of recommending themselves to their sovereign, but their forwardness in complying with his demands, would have vied with each other in granting what it would not only have been fruitless, but even highly dangerous to refuse. The king would not have failed soon to demand, as a tribute, a gift he must have been confident to obtain ; and the outward forms of consent would have been left to the people only as additional means of oppressing them without danger.
But the king of England continued, even in the time of the Tudors, to have but one assembly before which he could lay his wants and apply for relief. How great soever the increase of his power was, a single parliament alone could furnish him with the means of exercising it; and whether it was that the members of this parliament entertained a deep sense of their advantages, or whether private interest exerted itself in aid of patriotism, they at all times vindicated the right of granting, or rather refusing, subsidies; and amidst the general wreck of every thing they ought to have held