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her agent in depriving the people of what they thought,
and he at least half agreed with them in thinking, the
bread of spiritual life. For this the queen suspended,
and, had she dared, would have deprived him. Grindal's 1577
successor, Whitgift, a narrow disciplinarian, Aylmer of
London, and other bishops, were more compliant, and by
their energy in suppressing the preachers and enforcing
conformity made themselves hateful to the people. The
prisons into which dissenters were thrown were in those
days so foul that confinement in them was little better
than death, and one sectary could boast that he had been
in thirty-two prisons, in some of which he could not see
his hand at noon-day. Against the persecuting episcopate
the Puritans waged a war of pamphlets. They set up a
secret press, which forms a new feature in the progress of
political warfare. The more violent and coarser of them
assailed the bishops in a series of tracts under the name
of Martin Marprelate, full of the most intense rancour 1587
that persecution can engender. The Puritans, however,
were always unshaken in their loyalty to the throne. One
of them, Stubbe, when, for having written against the mar-
riage of Elizabeth with a papist, his right hand was cut off, 1579
had waved his hat with his left hand and shouted, " Long
live queen Elizabeth ! " Burghley appreciated Stubbe
though queen Elizabeth did not.

Re-animated thus at once by rural independence and by
Puritanism, which, the catholics being excluded by their
inability to take the oath of Supremacy, there was no
catholic party to counterbalance, the House of Commons
showed, and increasingly as the reign went on, a force
unknown since Lancastrian days. It asserted its right, in


spite of rebukes from the throne, to deal with the highest
questions of state, such as the queen's marriage and the
succession to the crown. It moved for Puritanic change
in the formularies and ceremonies of the church, thus
trenching on a province which the sovereign regarded as
belonging to her alone. When one of its members was
1587 arrested for boldness of speech, it reclaimed him and wel-
1601 comed him back with cheers. It attacked the monopolies,
by grants of which the queen enriched her favourites, and
enforced her consent to their abolition, which, when she
found it inevitable, she gave with characteristic tact and
grace. Leaders of opposition such as Peter Wentworth,
Strickland, and Yelverton, stand forward, the genuine
precursors of the leaders of the Long Parliament. Went-
worth refers to himself as meditating his speech while
walking in his own grounds; so that parliamentary oratory
has become a power. The language held in debate, after
the servility of the preceding age, if D'Ewes correctly
reports it, sounds like a tocsin ; " We are expressly
charged by our constituents to grant no moneys until
the queen answers resolvedly what we now ask. Our
towns and counties are resolute on this subject." The
imperious queen, when she refused to marry or settle
the succession, was told that "she was a step-mother to
the country, as being seemingly desirous that England
which lived in her should expire with her rather than
survive her " ; that '' kings could only gain the affections
of their subjects by providing for their welfare, both while
they lived and after their death " ; and that " none but
princes hated by their subjects or faint-hearted women
ever stood in fear of their successors." "All matters,"
said Mr. Yelverton, " which are not treason, or too much


to the derogation of the imperial crown, are in place here,
and to be permitted; here, I say, where all things come to
be considered of, where there is such fulness of power
that it is the place where even the right of the crown is to
be determined. To say that parliament hath no power to
determine of the crown is high treason. Men come not
here for themselves, but for their countries. It is fit for
princes to have their prerogatives ; but even their prerog-
atives must be straitened within reasonable limits. The
princess cannot of herself make laws ; neither may she, by
the same reason, break laws."

Hooker, in the latter part of the reign, though the
majestic champion of Anglicanism against protestantism,
is popular in his principles as to the origin and foundation
of government, however monarchical and hierarchical he
may be in the application. Even Bishop Aylmer, the
persecutor of the Puritans, recognizes the two Houses, one
representing the aristocracy, the other the democracy, as
powers co-ordinate with the crown, and says that if they
use their privilege the king can ordain nothing without
them, or if he does, it is his fault in usurping, and theirs
in permitting the usurpation.

On the other hand, there was no such approach to
responsible government as was made by the Lancastrian
parliaments, which claimed a control over the appoint-
ments to the council. The ministers regarded themselves
as the queen's servants alone; as bound, when their remon-
strances had failed, to do her will, not to resign ; and as
justified in all that they did by her command. This prin-
ciple was avowed by Burghley, whose conduct on some
occasions, especially on the eve of the Armada, stood in
need of its application ; but his colleagues also seem to


have acted upon it ; at least none of them resign. The
government still is, and is deemed by all, to be in the
sovereign, though it is held under the advancing shadow of
the rival power. The authority of the sovereign is perpet-
ual, that of parliament is intermittent, and its existence can
be suspended at the pleasure of the sovereign. No annual
budget and supply require its regular presence. For
nearly five years Elizabeth called no parliament. Nor
was the connection between the members and their con-
stituencies maintained and the spirit of the House renewed
by periodical elections. The crown could keep the same
parliament in existence as long as it pleased.

One proof of the growing power and independence of
the House of Commons is the reluctance of the queen to
hold parliaments. Another is the presence in the house
of privy councillors, who lead for the government much
as ministers lead now. A third is the creation or revival
of a number of small boroughs, which are evidently in-
tended to furnish safe seats for placemen or nominees of the
sovereign, and counterbalance the elections of independent
gentlemen by the counties. A seat in the Commons, in-
stead of a burden, is becoming an object of ambition, of
which the appearance of bribery at elections is a sinister

The question is mooted whether residence in the con-
stituency should be required as a qualification for election.
It is decided that the election shall be free. This, at the
time, is rather in favour of the courtiers against the country,
though it facilitates the election of lawyers, who on some
important questions formed the head of the opposition
lance. But it decides that the House shall be a council of
the nation, not a convention of local delegates. It is a



noble resolution, from which modern democracies, notably
that of the United States, have fallen away.

Against the Lords the House of Commons distinctly
asserted the exclusive right of initiating money bills, the
ultimate pledge of supreme power. An attempt of the
Lords prompted by the court to press a subsidy bill on
the Commons was resisted by Bacon, who seems to have
thereby forfeited the favour of the queen.

The House of Lords has settled down from a muti-
nous aristocracy into a conservative House of titled
landowners inclined to support the court against the
commons, or attached to the Liberal side chiefly by
possession of the church lands. Elizabeth creates few
peers, and these are courtiers. From their ancient claim
to advise and control the government the lords have been
ousted by the privy council. On the demise of the crown,
which would also be legally a demise of the council, a
lord laid his hand in the name of his order on the helm of
state, but the hand was speedily withdrawn. It is by tlie
council that the new king is proclaimed. 1603

We are not yet clear of arbitrary taxation on merchan-
dise, still claimed by prerogative as its lawful victim, or
even from forced loans. But the overthrow of monopolies
proves that law is gaining the upper hand. Personal
liberty is not so well secured. The people have not yet
learned that the rights of each must be defended if they
would preserve the rights of all. It is of this reign that
Hallam is speaking when he says that in trials for treason
the courts were little better than the caverns of murderers.
The star chamber assumes the exercise of a residuary
prerogative, undefined in extent, and nonconformists are
arbitrarily imprisoned by the court of high commission.

VOL. 1 вАФ 26


There is a disposition to introduce mai'tial law, and the
queen wishes to apply it to a man who had compassed the
death of her favourite Hatton. The peril of the nation
might warrant strong measures ; but encroachment did
not stop there. Still, principle remained settled and was
gaining ground.

The last object of Elizabeth's affection, Essex, must
have been a favourite, not a lover. The mad insurrec-
tion into which jealousy of his court rivals hurried him,
1601 and which cost him his life, was about the last outburst of
aristocratic anarchy, while Bacon's conduct in the impeach-
ment of his friend and benefactor is a repulsive relic of
the servility which, in the court of Henry VIII., laid
nature and friendship, as well as liberty and truth, at the
despot's feet.

The melancholy which fell on the queen in her last
days has been ascribed to political disappointment and the
sense of impending change. She felt, it is said, that the
Tudor system of government and society was passing
away. In "rooting out Puritanism and the favourers
thereof " she had certainly not been successful. Hallam
thinks that her popularity had declined. He says that the
nation cheated itself into a persuasion that it had borne
her more affection than it had really felt, especially in
her later years. Her best councillors were dead. The
tragedy of Essex, even if he was nothing more than a
favourite, may well have contributed a shade of gloom.
But we perhaps need look for no deeper cause of her
chagrin than the sense of desolation, the shadow of
coming death, and the feelings of a woman who sees
the end at hand after having coquetted all her days and
refused love.


Change, however, was impending in the political if not
the social sphere. The danger of attack from abroad and
the catholic powers was overpast; that of civil war had
long been left behind. The need of an autocrat was felt
no more. A powerful class, adverse to aristocracy, had
grown up ; a religion adverse to the hierarchy with which
autocracy was identified had taken deep root. On the
other hand the monarchy still regarded itself as of right
autocratic, while among the clergy a hierarchical and rit-
ualistic reaction had set in. Thus the clouds were fast
gathering out of which would break the elemental war.

Elizabeth had resolutely declined to settle the succession
to the crown. Parliament had remonstrated with her
strongly, even sternly, but in vain. In this, as in her
refusal to give the crown an heir by marrying, she was
most likely influenced by unwillingness to part with
power. She had no mind, she said, to be buried before
her death. This feeling, which clung to her even on her
death-bed, was near consigning the nation, for which she
professed a maternal affection, to civil war. She had no
power without parliament to bequeath the crown, still
less to bequeath it by word of mouth. Though the king
of Scots was the heir to the crown by blood, the parlia-
mentary title under the will of Henry VIII., which an
Act of parliament had made law, was in the house of
Suffolk, while there was another claimant in the person
of Arabella Stuart as a native, James being an alien born.
The council cut the knot, averted confusion, and united
the crowns by proclaiming James of Scotland king of 1603


Born 1566; Succeeded 1603; Died 1625

rriHE histories of Scotland and Ireland now mingle their
streams with that of the history of England.
The history of Scotland since the victory of Robert
Bruce had been the chronic struggle of a feeble monarchy
with a lawless, turbulent, and rapacious nobility. Bruce
himself, before he died, had been the mark of aristocratic
conspiracy. He was scarcely dead when the oligarchy
which crowned him was for a moment overthrown by a
revolution, caused apparently by the dislocation of estates
which followed the rupture of the kingdoms in a baronage
holding English as well as Scotch fiefs, combined with the
general spirit of anarchy and rapine, and the country for
a time weltered in confusion. The barons retained the
worst privileges of feudalism. They had heritable juris-
dictions with power, in their baronies, of life and death.
The great offices of state were hereditary, and so were
the wardenships or commands on the border. A baron
had absolute control over his vassals and could always
lead them against the crown. Royal or national justice
was hardly known. It could be enforced on the border
only by calling out the force of several shires. The instru-
ments of high police were letters of fire and sword. Under



such conditions, as the Scotch historian says, burgher and
peasant alike suffered. " The voice of the country's
wretchedness is heard in the chronicles, which lament that
justice and mercy are unknown throughout the land, that
the strong tyrannize and the weak endure." Against
the crown and each other nobles were always forming
cabals, or "bands of manrent." Private war was the
rule. The most' powerful of the houses was that of
Douglas, though Hamilton, Graham, Boyd, Crichton, and
Livingston had their hour. The domains of the Doug-
lases were in the south, where the martial spirit was kept
up by border wars. Their grim and massive stronghold,
the sea-girt Tantallon, bespoke the character of an iron
race. For a time that house overtopped the crown,
against which it could combine almost half the kingdom.
One king could rid himself of its mastery only by playing
the assassin. He entertained the Douglas at a feast, drew
him aside, bade him break up his " band," and when the
Douglas replied he would not, said, " I shall," and 1452
plunged a knife into his heart. On the other hand, when
a king, recoiling from the rude domination of the nobles,
found favourites in another class, the nobles seized his
favourites and hanged them before his eyes. Archibald
Douglas won the nickname of " Bell-the-Cat," by being
the leader in this outrage. To take up arms against the
king was a venial offence. To seize him and carry him
off was one of the strokes of intrigue. Of six successive
kings, from Robert III. to James VI., two were murdered
and one died of the chagrin brought on by treason, while
two fell in battle or siege. The long minorities which
ensued were periods of redoubled confusion. Among
themselves the noble houses carried on deadly feuds which


descended from generation to generation, and bred trage-
dies rivalling that of the Tower of Ugolino. To weaken
the nobility, the kings fomented these feuds.

James I. of Scotland had passed his youth as a captive
in England during the Lancastrian era. He had been
well educated by the care of the English kings. He had

1424 seen comparative civilization, and on his return to Scot-
land tried to introduce it there. He partly remodelled
the Scotch parliament on the English pattern, introducing
the principle of representation, to admit the gentry, who
formed the sinews of the English House of Commons.
Through this parliament he opened the statute book of
Scotland, revised the law, made a survey of property for"
taxation, regulated weights and measures, reformed the
coinage, repressed vagrancy, and made w^ on feudal
privilege. He cut off some high rebellious heads, and
resumed lands of which the nobles had despoiled the
crown. The consequence of his reforms was one of the
grand mvirder scenes of history. In a monastery at Perth,
where the court lodged, as the king lingered in his night-
gear before the fire, his ear caught the noise of assailants
breaking into the building. All other outlets being
closed, he tore up the floor of the room and took refuge in
a drain beneath it, while the wx)men, whom alone he had

1436 around him, feebly barred the door. He was discovered
by the murderers and slain. To the people he had made
himself dear as their shield against feudal oppression, and
their affection was shown by the execution of the mur-
derers with fiendish refinements of torture. His son,
James II., took up his policy, and was making some way

1460 with it when he was killed by the bursting of a cannon.

A parliament Scotland had, composed of the nobility,


the hierarchy, the lesser barons or the gentry, and the
burghers. But in spite of the transient reforms of James
I. it remained comparatively undeveloped, if not abortive.
It was not divided into houses. It gave up the initiative
of legislation to a committee called the Lords of Articles,
practically controlled by the crown, of whose edicts it
became little more than the register. It lacked the great
engine of influence possessed by the parliament of Eng-
land, as the kings rarely came to it for supplies ; they
subsisted mainly, as a rule, upon the estates of the crown,
which they augmented, when they had an opportunity, by
confiscation. Nor did the nobles look for redress of griev-
ances to parliament. They looked to their bands of man-
rent and their swords. The development of the judiciary,
as an organ separate from the legislature, was imperfect,
nor was there a Habeas Corpus to guard personal liberty,
while torture, illegally practised by the Tudors in Eng-
land, was in Scotland sanctioned by law.

The normal relation with England was war, only sus-
pended by ill-kept truce or uneasy and querulous peace.
Scotch borderers were always issuing from their peels, or
towers, to raid on English fields. English kings swept
Scotland with desolating invasions, sometimes reviving
the claim to over-lordship, but were withheld from
permanent conquest either by the difficulty of keeping
feudal armies long in the field, or by their continental
enterprises and entanglements. In the great battles the
English bow, which the Scotch never learned to use,
prevailed. Halidon, Homildon, Nevill's Cross, Flodden,
all went the same way. After the slaughter of the
Scotch king and his nobility at Flodden the kingdom 1513
would probably have fallen had Surrey's victorious army


advanced, instead of dispersing for want of supplies. But
in marauding expeditions the Scotch, mounted on their
hardy ponies, with a bag of oatmeal apiece for com-
missariat, had their revenge. War was carried on with
the utmost savagery, and when the English entered a
camp which the Scotch had left they found a number of
English prisoners with their legs broken. The border,
with its robber hordes and its plundering clans, was
a realm of brigandage tempered by fitful inroads of
authority and summary hangings, styled Jedburgh law.
Pretenders to the English crown, the false Richard II.,
and after him Perkin Warbeck, found shelter and coun-
tenance in Scotland.

For protection against England, Scotland was fain to
throw herself into the arms of France, of which she
became the diplomatic vassal, and in war with the com-
^mon enemy the subordinate ally. Scotch auxiliaries
fought for France against the English invader, and fought
well. Louis XI. had his Scotch guard, as readers of
" Quentin Durward " know. It was in a French quarrel,
and in response to an appeal made to his fantastic chivalry
by a French queen, that James IV. recklessly invaded
1513 England, and led the flower of his kingdom to ruin at
Flodden. The two countries entered into a league for
mutual support against England, which in fact afforded
the English government a standing cause of war. French
auxiliaries were sent to Scotland, but the Scotch found
them too fine gentlemen, while they found the Scotch not
fine gentlemen enough. The Scotch castles and Scotch
architecture of the period generally are in the French style.

Under such conditions the arts of peace could hardly
exist ; wealth could not increase ; large towns could not


grow ; nor could the political influence of the city be felt.
Such cities as there were preferred municipal isolation or
combination with the other cities to partnership in the
feudal commonwealth. It is surprising that the country
should even have been regularly tilled, when flight be-
fore a devastating invader was a common incident of
life. A combative and sombre patriotism with fierce
hatred of the ' auld enemy ' would be nursed by the conflict.
Self-reliance must have been bred by the constant bearing
of arms, and danger of enervation by luxury there could
have been none. But the modern Scotch character is not
the offspring of feudal anarchy or border war ; it is the
offspring of protestantism, of Presbyterianism, of the
school system, and, not least, of trade^ acting, no doubt,
on a basis of native force and shrewdness. Bacon, in his
plea for union, comparing the Scotch with the English,
says that the disparity is only in the external goods of
fortune, that in the goods of mind and body Scotchmen
and Englishmen were the same, and that the Scotch were
a people "in their capacities and understandings ingen-
ious," and " in labour industrious," as well as " in courage
reliant," and "in body hard, active, and comely." But
Bacon was writing after the Reformation.

The medieval church of Scotland could not fail to par-
take of the general rudeness and coarseness of society.
It is wonderful that any rose should have blossomed on
such a thorn, and that church art should have produced
such beauty as that of Glasgow Cathedral, Melrose Abbey,
and the Chapel of Rosslyn. It is not less wonderful that
universities should have been founded, and that there
should have been, as apparently there was, a popular
craving for education.


Such was the Lowland monarchy ; and that to the Low-
lands, not to the Highlands and the Isles, the legal and
titular sovereignty should belong, fortune decided on the

1411 battle-field of Harlaw. But the realm of the Celt beyond
the Grampians remained unassimilated and unsubdued.
There the clan system with all its relations and sentiments
continued in full force, and the chief, instead of being,
like the baron, lord of the land, was lord of the men to
whom as a clan the land belonged. There Gaelic was still
the tongue ; the Celtic mantle was still the garb ; the word
of a lawless chief was still the law ; and the most honour-
, able occupation was raiding on Lowland farms. Chris-
tianity could hardly be said to exist, and the restraints of
marriage were almost unknown. Only by alliance with
the powers of Huntley, in the eastern Highlands, and of
Argyle, in the west, could the monarchy of Edinburgh
obtain slight and precarious control. Between Lowland
Saxon and Highland Celt the antipathy and antagonism
were hardly less than between the English colonist in
Ireland and the native Irish. '* Cateran " was the name of
hatred and contempt given by the Lowlander to the plun-
dering Gael. For the suppression of caterans a statute

1384 was made by which any man might seize one of them,
bring him to the sheriff, and kill him if he refused to
come ; and this was the first in a train of penal and
denunciatory laws against the Highlander, each more
cruel than the last. The caterans^ like the Irish kerne,
retaliated when they had the power. Driven from the
fruitful to the barren lands, they were shut out from civili-
zation and almost constrained to plunder. The enmity
between the two races was deadly ; there was apparently
no hope of reconciliation, much less of a common nation-


ality. In Scotland as in Ireland there was as little
thought of keeping faith with the Celt as with the beast
of prey lured into the trap. To foment quarrels between
clans was the policy of the government, which took a

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 29 of 84)