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PROM THE MEETING OF THE LONG PARLIAMENT TILL
State of the Nation, #c.—Grievances detailed in the Lower
The calling of the last parliament, which was so sute of the prematurely terminated, had diffused general satis- meeting of faction, as the precursor of a better system; butp.^3,. wise men perceived that matters had not yet arrived at the crisis when the authority of the legislature could be effectually exerted against that horrid train of evils which the kingdom had so long Vol. ur. B
groaned under; and the people at large, though they hoped much from a constitutional assembly, had been too greatly dispirited by oppression to feel confident of its power. The influence of the crown, therefore, together with that of the great families attached to arbitrary principles, operated considerably in elections; while, of those returned as members on more independent grounds, and who had not yet enlisted under the banners of administration, there were many who were politicly inclined not to forfeit their chance of preferment from a system which they deemed it impossible to controul. On the other hand, prudence dictated to the most public-spirited the propriety of preserving a tone of moderation, in order, if possible, to reclaim the monarch, and, at all events, to avoid affording him a pretext with any considerable portion of his subjects, for hurrying matters to an extremity which, however it might end, must, in the interim, be productive of national calamities. The course of elections even then, however, so disappointed Charles and his ministers, that the Earl of Northumberland, previous to the meeting of that parliament, predicted, in a private letter to the Earl of Leicester, that it would be short-lived, as unfit for the purposes of the executive *. But all saw
• Sidney, State Papers, vol. ii. p. 611. He writes, 19th March, 1039-40. "The elections that are generally made of knights and burgesses in this kingdome, giues us cause to feare that the parliament will not sitt long; for such as haue dependance upon the court, are in diuers places refused; and the most refrectorie persons chosen." Does not this prove that Sir H. Vane and Herbert were not singular in their opinion of that parliament?
now, that, from the necessities of the prince, this parliament could not be ignominiously dissolved Lite the four preceding; and proportionally strong was their confidence in having at length found a remedy for all their grievances. The influence of the executive in elections was therefore vastly diminished * . The selfishly cautious laid aside their interested prudence with the change of times; and the patriotic struck up upon a bolder key: There was even another class who, though they had formerly truckled to power, now manfully declaimed against the infringements of public rights. Of the last, the most conspicuous was Mr. Hyde, afterwards the famous Lord Clarendon, who does not scruple to inform us, in his history of his own life, that during the discontinuance of parliaments, he had so gained the patronage of Laud and other ministers, that their countenance procured! him high respect from the judges in the courts at Westminster—a circumstance which, having been generally remarked, brought him great professional practice f. This noble historian endeavours, in the course of his work, to depreciate certain lawyers who rose to eminence during the ensuing civil broils, by alleging that they had been previously little heard of in the profession; but the manner in which he accounts for his own success, defeats the effects of his remarks upon others in the same
* Hardwieke's State Papers, vol. ii. p. 190. Clarendon's State Papers, vol. ii. p. 131. as to the interference of government. The course of the elections is complained of in the Eikon. Whitelocke, p.37.
t Clarendon's Life, vol. i. p. 31. 60-1.
line, and must leave small room for doubt in any unprejudiced mind, that it is more creditable to the memory of those whom he undervalues for their want of success, that they were little known, than to his, that the sworn guardians of the law favoured him as the creature of Laud, for the purpose of ingratiating themselves with that meddling priest and his coadjutors.
It is needless to dwell upon the awful crisis at which this parliament met. The invasions of liberty had been as avowed as they were profligate; the very semblance of justice, which is at least an homage to law, as hypocrisy is to virtue, had been despised; despotism unmasked having raged in all its deformity. The faithful discharge of duty in the senate had not only been attended with the most disgraceful dissolutions, but been visited with terrible penalties in the persons of its members; while the determination had been formed to dispense entirely with the legislature—a determination from which an unforeseen necessity alone had obliged the prince to depart: The pulpit, by the very royal injunctions, the council table, the bench, had all been polluted with the disclosure, and the two last, with the practice also, of principles subversive of every thing valuable in civil institutions: Industry had been so suspended, by destructive monopolies and arbitrary impositions, with other illegal proceedings, that a portion even of the manufacturers of woollen cloth, the staple of England, had emigrated with their capital to the