« PreviousContinue »
themselves ; for Mr. Hooker, who was no refractory man, (as they term it) thinks, that the first government was arbitrary, until it was found, that to live by one man's will, became all men's misery. These are his words, concluding, that this was the original of inventing laws : and if we look further back, our histories will tell us, that the prelates of this kingdom have often been the mediators between the king and his subjects, to present and pray redress of their grievances ; and had reciprocally, then, as much love and reverence from the people ; but these preachers, more active than their predecessors, and wiser than the laws, have found out a better form of government.
The king must be a more absolute monarch than any of his predecessors ; and to them he must owe it, though in the mean time they hazard the hearts of his people, and involve him in a thousand difficulties : for suppose this form of government were inconvenient, (and yet this is but a supposition, for, during these five hundred years, it hath not only maintained us in safety, but made us victorious over other nations :) I say, suppose they have an idea of one more convenient; we all know how dangerous innovations are, though to the better; and what hazard those princes must run, that enterprize the change of a long established government ! Now, of all our kings that have gone before, and of all that are to succeed in this happy race, why should so pious and so good a king be exposed to this trouble and hazard ? besides that, kings so diverted can never do any great matter abroad. But whilst these men have thus bent their wits against the laws of their country, whether they have not neglected their own province, and what tares are grown up in the field which they should have tilled, I leave to a second consideration ; not but that religion ought to be the first thing in our purposes and desires, but that which is first in dignity is not always to precede in order of time : for well being supposes a being ; and the first impediment which men naturally
endeavour to remove, is the want of those things without which they cannot subsist.
God first assigned to Adam maintenance of life, and gave him a title to the rest of the creatures, before he appointed him a law to observe; and let me tell you, that if our adversaries have any such design, as there is nothing more easy than to impose a religion on a people deprived of their liberties, so there is nothing more hard, than to do the same upon free men.
And therefore, Mr. Speaker, I conclude with this motion, That there may be an order presently made, that the first thing this house will consider of, shall be the restoring of this nation in general to their fundamental and vital liberties, the property of our goods, and freedom of our persons ; and that then we will forthwith consider of the supply desired,
Thus shall we discharge the trust reposed in us, by those that sent us hither ; his majesty will see that we make more than ordinary haste to satisfy his demands ; and we shall let all those know, that seek to hasten the matter of supply, that they will so far delay it, as they give interruption to the former.
LORD GEORGE DIGBY,
( Son of the firsi Earl of Bristol,)
Was born in 1612, and died in 1676. He was member for Dorset
shire in the long parliament. He at first opposed the court, but afterwards joined the royal party, and was expelled.
Lord Digby's Speech on Frequent Parliaments.
Mr. Speaker, I rise not now with an intent to speak to the frame and structure of this bill, nor much by way of answer
to objections that may be made ; I hope there will be no occasion for this, but that we shall concur all, unanimously, in what concerns all so universally.
Only, sir, by way of preparation, to the end that we may not be discouraged in this great work, by difficul. ties that may appear in the way of it, I shall deliver unto you my apprehensions in general, of the vast importance and necessity that we should go through with it.
The result of my sense is in short this, that unless there be some such course settled for the frequent convening of parliaments, 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. If this bill miscarry, I shall have no public hopes left me ; and, once past, I shall be freed of all public fears.
The essentialness, sir, of frequent parliaments to the happiness of this kingdom, might be inferred unto you by the reason of contraries, and froin the woful experience which former times have had of the mischiey. ous effects of any long intermission of them.
But, Mr. Speaker, why should we climb higher than the level we are on, or think further than our horizon ; or have recourse for examples in this business to any other promptuary than our own memories ; nay, than the experience almost of the youngest here.
The reflection backward 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 paralleled in any other, obtain a wakening, a resurrection for them ?
The intestine distempers, sir, of former ages upon the want of parliaments, may appear to have had some other co-operative causes; as sometimes unsuccessful wars abroad, sometiines the absence of the prince, sometimes competitions of titles to the crown, sometimes perhaps the vices of the king himself.
Let us only consider the posture, the aspect of this state, both towards itself and the rest of the world, the person of our sovereign, and the nature of our suffering, since the third of his reign ; and there can be no cause, colourably inventible, whereunto to attribute them, but the intermission, or, which is worse, the undue frustration of parliaments, by the unlucky use, if not abuse of prerogative, in dissolving them. Take into your view,
, Mr. Speaker, a kingdom in a state of the greatest quiet and security that can be fancied, not only enjoying the calmest peace itself, but to improve and secure its happy condition, all the rest of the world at the same time in tempests, in combustions, in uncomposable wars.
Take into your view, sir, a king, sovereign of three kingdoms, by a concentring of all the royal lines in his person, as indisputably as any mathematical ones in Euclid ; a king, firm and knowing in his religion, eminent in virtue ; a king, that hath in his own time given all the rights and liberties of his subjects a more clear and ample confirmation, freely and graciously, (I mean in the petition of right) than any of his predecessors, (when the people had them at advantage,) extortedly. This is one map of England, Mr. Speaker.
A man, sir, that should present unto you now, a kingdom, groaning under that supreme law, which salus populi periclitata would enact ; the liberty, the property of the subject fundamentally subverted, ravished away by the violence of a pretended necessity; a triple crown shaking with distempers ; men of the best conscience ready to fly into the wilderness for religion ! Would not one swear that this were the antipodes to the other ? And yet, let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, this is a map of England too, and both at the same time but too true.
As it cannot be denied, Mr. Speaker, that since the con. quest, there hath not been in this kingdom a fuller con. currence of all circumstances in the former character, to have made a kingdom happy, than for these twelve years last past; so it is most certain, that there hath not been in all that deduction of ages such a conspiracy, if one may so say, of all the elements of mischief in the second character, to bring a flourishing kingdom, if it were possible, to swift ruin and desolation.
I will be bold to say, Mr. Speaker, (and I thank God, we have so good a king, under whom we may speak boldly of the abuse of his power by ill ministers, without reflection upon his person,) that an accumulation of all
, the public grievances since magna charta, one upon another, unto that hour in which the petition of right past into an act of parliament, would not amount to so oppressive, I am sure not to so destructive, a height and magnitude, to the rights and property of the subject, as one branch of our beslaving since the petition of right! The branch I mean is the judgment concerning ship money.
This being a true representation of England, in both aspects, let him, Mr. Speaker, that (for the unmatched oppression and enthralling of free subjects, in a time of
a the best king's reign, and in memory of the best laws enacted in favour of subjects' liberty) can find a truer cause than the ruptures and intermission of parliaments, let him, I say, and him alone, be against the settling of this inevitable way for the frequent holding of them.
'Tis true, sir, wicked ministers have been the proxi. mate causes of our miseries; but the want of parliaments, the primary, the efficient causes ; ill ministers have made ill times; but that, sir, hath made ill mi. nisters.
I have read, among the laws of the Athenians, a form of recourse, * in their oaths and vows of their greatest and public concernment, to a threefold deity: Supplicium