Sivut kuvina

a beginning, to decide the question of the supplies quickly, and in preference to all other matters. The Commons, on the same day, drew up an answer, of which the following is the substance: “It is an ancient right of Parliament to determine the order in which the matters before it shall be treated, and especially to deliberate on the grievances before matters of taxation. We have, however, taken both into consideration at the same time, and granted more than ever was done before. We are also convinced that the prerogatives of the crown and the liberties of the subject are equally necessary and salutary. We, therefore, request the King not to listen to partial insinuations, but to rely on what will shortly be laid before him.” The first law which was presented to the King by the House of Commons on the 14th of April, related to the redress of abuses in billeting of soldiers. He replied to the Speaker, “It is not the time to enter into discussions on the privileges of the House, but to do what the occasion calls for. I am no less regardful than you of the maintenance of your liberties, but delays may equally endanger your rights and mine. I shall answer your request in due time.”(*) The House, however, was the further from suspending its deliberations upon the grievances, as it seemed unreasonable that the King delayed indefinitely his answer to a simple petition, and yet desired the grant of money to be made immediately in order then, as they feared, to dissolve the Parliament. The more easily to remove, as he hoped, all these doubts, the King, in an unusual manner, went himself to the House, on the 28th of April, and declared, through the Lord Keeper, “That he gave his word inviolably to maintain the Magna Charta, and all the confirmations of it, as well as all the rights of the people, and to govern according to the laws. In this royal word and promise they would find as much security as in any law, and he requested them to be satisfied with it.” However satisfactory this promise appeared, it contained nothing that was not already comprised in the Coronation Oath,(*) which had not prevented all abuses. The principal object was to remove doubts and abuses by precise legal enactments, that the interpretation and application might not depend on personal goodness or arbitrary will. In this spirit Benjamin Rudyard said, “The object of Magna Charta and other laws is, to convert the undefined royal authority into a definite and legal one. But as all and every point cannot be precisely defined by laws, there remains a certain free space in which confidence must be placed in the King, whose power does not subsist against the laws, but together with them. On the other hand, there are

certain points which have lately been brought into notice, and respecting which legal enactments may and ought to be made. Mr. Hackwell added, even the confirmation of old laws is a great gain, for doubts and obscurities are removed and the occasions are impressed upon the memory.” When the King was informed of these and other votes, he caused the House of Commons to be asked, on the 1st of May, “Whether it would be satisfied with his often repeated promise and royal word.” To this question Mr. Secretary Cooke added, “The King's reference to the laws is sufficient, and it will only be necessary to avoid deviations from them in the future. If we will not make any innovations no new enactments are necessary, and such would only infringe the royal power.” In the debates upon the royal message, which began on the 2d of May, different opinions were expressed with increased warmth; some said, “We have already laws enough, and it is sufficient if they are executed.” Others exclaimed, “Our liberties have been more violated within a short time than in two centuries preceding.” “The King's goodness,” said Wentworth, “is sufficient for the moment, but affords no security for the future.” At length, after the house had decided, the Speaker made an address to the King on the 5th of May. It was in terms polite, grateful, and full of confidence; “Only

in consequence of much experience the house ventured to request that the King would suffer his promise to be reduced to the form of a bill, and would then confirm it, in which it was by no means intended to overthrow the ancient laws or to limit the King's power, but only more clearly to fix those laws and the mode of their execution.” The King hereupon replied through the Lord Keeper, “That he had expected an answer by deeds, not a delay by words. In every explanation of the laws he hazarded a limitation of his rights, and wherefore all this, if they expressed their assurance that they trusted his word? He would confirm Magna Charta and the laws connected with it, but exhorted them to do quickly what they intended to do, as his resolution speedily to dissolve them was known to them.” In the debates in the House on the following day, the Secretary, Cooke, again observed, “That the King's word, in fact, bound him more than a law, for it also engaged his affection, his judgment, and his honour.” The great lawyer, Sir Edward Coke, was of a different opinion, and said, “General promises are not sufficient for the removal of special grievances. A verbal declaration is, in the Parliamentary sense, not the word of the King, and messages from him cannot determine the nature of our proceedings and the rights of Parliament. I have no distrust of the King's word, but let him declare it in the legal manner, that all succeeding Kings may be bound by it. Let us therefore state our wishes in a petition of right, which the King may then confirm, and thereby shew confidence in the Parliamentary sense of the term.” This was accordingly done, Sir Edward Coke taking the lead. The petition of right was sent to the House of Lords on the 8th of May, and on the 12th, it received a letter from the King, in which he endeavoured to prove how much he had hitherto yielded, and again offered to confirm the old laws. The validity of these, however, was so clearly understood, that a new confirmation of them seemed scarcely necessary, and the House was least of all disposed to be restrained from all further improvement of the legislation: though the Lords were far from rejecting the petition of right, they made an addition to it, which gave occasion to new and long debates in the lower House. It was to this effect: they would leave entire the sovereign power, with which the King was intrusted for the protection, safety, and happiness of his people.(*) Pym declared upon this, that he knew very well how the word sovereign might be applied to the person of the King, but not to his authority. Sir Edward Coke said, “This addition destroys the whole bill.” The expression, too, was quite unusual, and appeared to place the power of the King above all laws. Sir Thomas Wentworth added, “If this addition is adopted, matters will be worse

« EdellinenJatka »